Thursday, December 06, 2012

'Campaign to End Overincarceration' issues 2012 retrospective

I first met Vanita Gupta when she was one of the lead litigators in the Tulia drug sting cases on behalf of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and today she's operating the "Campaign to End Overincarceration" on behalf of the national ACLU. She just sent out an "2012 Year in Review" summary on behalf of that campaign which included so much interesting information about national developments I thought I'd republish it in full below the jump.
2012: Year in Review
Dear Friends,

We made a lot of progress in 2012 in the fight to end overincarceration, as voters and lawmakers alike demonstrated that America may finally be waking up from its destructive and costly ”tough on crime” stupor. Some of the most dramatic examples of this shift in public opinion were the marijuana policy wins in Washington and Colorado, which showed that sensible drug law reform is not only necessary, but achievable. Connecticut abolished capital punishment and although California voters disappointingly rejected this year’s proposal to replace the death penalty with life without parole, public opinion there is unquestionably shifting in the right direction.

Throughout the year, the ACLU was in legislatures across the country promoting smart criminal justice reforms aimed at safely reducing jail and prison populations and dismantling the devastating and ultimately ineffective war on drugs. We were in court fighting abusive police practices and inhumane prison and jail conditions. And we have been relentless in our efforts to end America’s attachment to its cruel and racially discriminatory capital punishment system.

All of these efforts bode well for the fight against overincarceration and overly punitive sentencing, but we must remain vigilant. The truth is that while the nation is finally beginning to reckon with its addiction to incarceration, it is going to take a lot more work and political will to advance the kinds of reforms necessary to achieve a just and fair criminal justice system. Broad-based, strategic coalitions are required to create sustained demand for true systemic reform. We look forward to working with all of you to get the job done in 2013 and beyond.

Happy Holidays,
Vanita Gupta

The following is a roundup of highlights from 2012. Click on the links below to jump to specific topics:
·         Advancing sensible drug policy and other reforms to safely reduce jail and prison populations
·         Criminal justice reform in the U.S. Supreme Court
·         Advancing humane treatment of detainees and prisoners
·         Promoting constitutional and fair police practices
·         Working to end the death penalty
·         Fighting privatization of prisons

Advancing Sensible Drug Policy and Other Reforms to Safely Reduce Jail and Prison Populations
Voters in Colorado and Washington Legalize Marijuana: Voters in Colorado and Washington made history on Election Day, when they chose to legalize small quantities of marijuana for adults. Arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana have damaged civil liberties in many ways—eroding protections against searches and seizures, putting large numbers of non-violent individuals behind bars, and targeting people of color. Alison Holcomb, Campaign Director for New Approach Washington, has returned to her position as Drug Policy Director at the ACLU of Washington, where she is working on implementing the new law. You can read more about the ACLU’s support of the state measures in our blog post. “Our state’s unfair and ineffective marijuana laws have damaged civil liberties in many ways – eroding protections against searches and seizures, putting large numbers of non-violent individuals behind bars, and targeting people of color.”

·         Michigan voters in Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Flint chose to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
·         Chicago decriminalized possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana.
·         Rhode Island decriminalized the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, effective in April 2013.
·         Massachusetts voters approved the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Significant State Reforms Aimed at Reducing the Prison Population:
·         Alabama passed SB 386, which allows the Alabama Sentencing Commission to set sentencing guidelines for nonviolent offenses.
·         California: By a wide margin, voters in California approved Proposition 36, which limits the state’s 3 Strikes Law by removing the possibility of a life sentence for most nonviolent third strikes.
·         Delaware passed SB 226, which institutionalizes the use of evidence-based practices, including use of risk assessment instruments, in decisions concerning bail, rehabilitation and probation supervision.
·         Georgia expanded alternative courts and reformed sentencing and probation with HB 1176. The ACLU submitted a letter to the governor in support of the bill.
·         Hawaii passed HB 2515 and SB 2776 to expand the use of probation, risk assessments, and community-based treatment programs. The ACLU testified in support of the bills.
·         Illinois passed SB 2621 to revive good-time credit for nonviolent offenders who complete drug treatment, job training or rehabilitation programs while behind bars. 
·         Kansas passed HB 2318 to allow judges to use treatment programs for small-time drug offenses.
·         Louisiana passed the ACLU-sponsored HB 543, which allows prisoners sentenced to life in prison for nonviolent crimes to appear before a parole board; HB 1026, which allows low-risk repeat offenders to appear before a parole board after serving one-third of their sentences; and HB 1068, which allows prosecutors to offer less than the mandatory minimum sentence for some offenses.
·         Maryland passed a pair of ACLU-supported bills. SB 691 grants good time credit to people on parole that will reduce prison populations and increase public safety, and HB 261/SB 422 codifies the right to an attorney at bail review and requires a citation for certain minor offenses, including marijuana possession. The ACLU also testified in favor of HB 350/SB 214, which reduces the penalty for marijuana possession.
·         Massachusetts passed broad sentencing and parole reform in Ch. 192. The ACLU fought hard to expand the good pieces of the bill and oppose the scope of the penalty for third offenses.
·         Missouri passed parole reform in HB 1525 and reduced the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine from an abysmal 75-to-1 to 5-to-1 with SB 732, after years of advocacy and groundwork by the Sentencing Project, the ACLU, and other organizations.
·         New Jersey expanded treatment for persons convicted of drug offenses with S-881.
·         Ohio passed SB 337 to reduce the collateral consequences of a felony conviction.
·         Pennsylvania passed sentencing and parole reform in SB 100.
·         Tennessee passed an expungement bill, HB 2865.
·         Washington implemented LEAD, a first-of-its-kind program that diverts individuals charged with low-level offenses into community-based services, such as drug treatment, immediately after arrest and before booking. The ACLU is helping direct policy for the program.
·         For more on the significant criminal justice reform during the 2012 legislative sessions, read the ACLU’s roundup blog from June.

2012 ACLU Reports on Criminal Justice Reform:

·         At America’s Expense: The Mass Incarceration of the Elderly: Elderly prisoners are twice as expensive to incarcerate as the average prisoner and pose little danger to society, yet the population of elderly prisoners in the United States is exploding. Our extreme sentencing policies and a growing number of life sentences have effectively turned many of our correctional facilities into veritable nursing homes — and taxpayers are paying for it. Download the report and view and share a striking slideshow of photos by Tim Gruber and our video, “Elderly in Prison”.  For more, read the ACLU’s press release.
·         Public Safety Realignment: California at a Crossroads: In March, the ACLU published an extensive, in-depth analysis of California’s criminal justice system and the implications of the state’s massive transfer of prisoners from state prisons to county jails. Read the report here.
·         California Prison Realignment One-Year Anniversary: An ACLU Assessment: One year after the implementation of California's prison realignment plan, the state has failed to adopt the kinds of reforms necessary to ensure its success and a lasting reduction both in the number of people behind bars and recidivism rates. Read the report here.
·         Trial and Error: A Comprehensive Study of Prosecutorial Conduct in New Jersey: Of the 343 New Jersey prosecutors accused of error between 2005 and 2011 – including the 30 prosecutors who were found to have committed multiple errors – not one received discipline for in-court behavior. Read the report here.

Criminal Justice Reform in the U.S. Supreme Court

Dorsey v. U.S. and Hill v. U.S.: The Court ruled that the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduced the disparity in federal sentencing between crack and powder cocaine, applies to people whose offenses predate the law but who were sentenced after its passage. Learn more from this blog post, the opinion, and the ACLU’s amicus brief.

Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs: The Court ruled that mandatory juvenile life sentences without parole are unconstitutional. Learn more from this blog post and the opinion.

Lafler v. Cooper and Missouri v. Frye: The Supreme Court ruled that defendants have a right to effective counsel during plea bargaining, and that violations cannot be cured by a later fair trial or plea. The ACLU joined an amicus brief submitted by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

Advancing Humane Treatment of Detainees and Prisoners

Mississippi Bans Solitary Confinement of Juveniles: A lawsuit brought by the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center resulted in a groundbreaking consent decree in March, which bans solitary confinement for kids convicted as adults. The decision was also an indictment of private prisons: the decree will require juveniles to be transferred out of a hyper-violent GEO Group-run facility. 

Massachusetts Court Orders Greater Protections for Prisoners in Solitary Confinement: In November, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that placing a prisoner in solitary without due process for over 90 days is unlawful, and ordered the Department of Corrections to put into place regulations to prevent such confinements in the future. The ACLU submitted an amicus brief in the case.

Alabama’s Segregation of HIV Prisoners Stands Trial: On September 17 in Montgomery, Alabama, trial began in Henderson v. Thomas, the ACLU’s challenge to Alabama’s enforced segregation of, and discrimination against, prisoners with HIV. HIV-positive prisoners are segregated from other prisoners, required to wear white armbands to disclose their HIV status, and barred from a host of rehabilitative services and programs that are offered to similarly-situated prisoners who do not have HIV. The ACLU contends that these discriminatory policies and practices violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. A decision is expected before Christmas. Read the Birmingham News’s take on the case and a blog post by one of our clients. 

ACLU Challenges Arizona’s Prison Health Care and Use of Solitary Confinement in Federal Court: In March 2012, the ACLU filed a statewide lawsuit challenging the Arizona Department of Corrections’ use of long-term solitary confinement and its failure to provide minimally adequate medical, mental health, and dental care to its 34,000 prisoners. Prisoners known to be seriously mentally ill are held in conditions of extreme social isolation and sensory deprivation, often causing catastrophic psychiatric harm. Chronic shortages of health care staff mean that desperately sick prisoners are told to “be patient” or “pray” to be cured. In October 2012, the court denied the State’s motion to dismiss the case, and in November 2012, we filed our motion to certify the case as a class action. You can read more about the suit here.

L.A. County Should Close Largest Jail, End Deputy Violence: In April, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca endorsed an ACLU-commissioned report calling for the closure of the notorious Men’s Central Jail by the end of 2013. Then in October, he announced that he intends to end deputy-on-inmate violence by implementing all 63 recommendations from a report by the Citizens' Commission on Jail Violence. Sheriff Baca intends to hire an outside custody expert to run the jails, make major changes concerning the use of force, and establish a civilian commission with power to conduct investigations in the jails. The announcement also comes on the heels of a new report from the ACLU and the law firm Paul Hastings LLP that reveals how often L.A. County deputies strike inmates in the head with closed fists and blunt objects like flashlights, or slam inmates’ heads into concrete walls. As court-appointed monitors of the L.A. County Jails since 1985, the ACLU has documented an ongoing pattern of deputy-on-inmate violence in the jails that dates back many years, although Sheriff Baca only acknowledged the problem last year following mounting pressure from the ACLU and others. Watch local news coverage of the ACLU’s latest report, and visit our L.A. County Jails page to learn more.

The Senate Hosts its First-Ever Hearing on Solitary Confinement: In June, a Senate Judiciary subcommittee heard moving testimony from Anthony Graves, a death-row exoneree who spent years in solitary confinement. The subcommittee also heard from Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps, who reduced prison violence and cut his budget by millions by steeply cutting back on solitary confinement.  
·         Read Anthony Graves’ story, and listen to him speak.  
·         Read coverage from The New York Times here and here.
·         Read National Prison Project Director David Fathi’s letter to the editor in The Washington Post.
·         Watch the hearing and read the ACLU’s testimony

ACLU Supports the “Expose and Close” Campaign to Shut Down Ten Immigration Detention Facilities Considered the Worst in the Nation: The Obama Administration’s average daily immigrant detainee population is 34,000 – the highest in history. Many of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE’s) detention reform projects have fallen short due to various obstacles, despite tremendous efforts by the ICE Office of Detention Policy and Planning. Meanwhile, some one million people have languished in substandard, inhumane detention conditions. In some facilities, detainees have died, or have been denied medical care, outdoor recreation, and contact family visits. The ACLU and other members of the Detention Watch Network have identified 10 facilities considered to be the worst in the nation. We strongly urge that DHS immediately stop detaining people at these ten facilities: Etowah County Detention Center (AL), Pinal County Jail (AZ), Houston Processing Center (TX), Polk County Jail (TX), Stewart Detention Center (GA), Irwin County Detention Center (GA), Hudson County Jail (NJ), Theo Lacy Jail (CA), Tri-County Jail (IL), and Baker County Jail (FL).

2012 ACLU Reports on Prison Conditions:

·         Growing Up Locked Down: Kids should never be held in adult facilities, but when they are, they should be held in separate areas with other kids, and never locked in solitary confinement. That’s the recommendation of a report from the ACLU and Human Rights Watch that examines the solitary confinement of youth in facilities across the nation. The report is based on interviews and correspondence with more than 125 young people in 19 states who spent time in solitary confinement while under age 18, as well as with jail and/or prison officials in 10 states. Watch a Senate congressional briefing about the report, along with a video, podcast and multimedia presentation available here. To learn more, read coverage from NPR and the AP, and this blog post by the report’s author. 

·         Boxed In: The True Cost of Extreme Isolation in New York's Prisons: New York’s solitary confinement practices are arbitrary and unjustified, extremely harmful, and very expensive. Read the report here.

·         Reproductive Health Locked Up: An Examination of Pennsylvania Jail Policies: Pennsylvania state prisons fail to provide adequate reproductive health care for female prisoners. Read the report here.

Promoting Constitutional and Fair Police Practices

NYCLU Takes on Stop-and-Frisk: In May 2012, the NYCLU and NYPD reached a successful settlement under which NYPD officers have been instructed not to question, frisk, search or demand identification from livery cab passengers unless the officer has independent suspicion of criminal behavior. And in March, the NYCLU, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and The Bronx Defenders filed a federal class-action lawsuit challenging the NYPD’s Operation Clean Halls program, a part of the department’s stop-and-frisk program that allows police officers to patrol thousands of private apartment buildings across New York City. Read more about the NYCLU’s broad and vocal campaign against stop-and-frisk here.

Newark Police Settlement Affirms Citizens' Rights to Videotape Officers on Duty: In November, the Newark PD and the ACLU reached a successful settlement in the case of Khaliah Fitchette, a Newark teenager who was illegally detained by police for using her cellphone to record an incident on a public bus in March 2010. The Newark PD agreed to make clear to its officers through training that they cannot confiscate, delete, or demand to view a citizen's photos or video without a warrant.

Settlement Ends Asset Forfeiture Abuse and Rampant Racial Profiling in East Texas County: In August, the ACLU successfully settled a class-action suit against officials in Tenaha and Shelby Counties, Texas, where it is estimated police seized $3 million from individuals during at least 140 traffic stops between 2006 and 2008. Almost all of the stops involved Black and Latino drivers, none of the plaintiffs in the case were ever arrested or charged with a crime, and the seized assets were used to enrich the defendants’ offices and themselves. According to the consent decree that has been submitted to the court for approval, new rules will prevent these abuses from happening again.

Fourth Circuit Rejects Warrantless Collection of DNA Evidence from Arrested Persons: The April, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of ACLU client Alonzo King, holding that it was unconstitutional for Maryland police to take a sample of King’s DNA without probable cause or individualized suspicion. The decision is now before the U.S. Supreme Court, and you can read the 4th Circuit’s opinion here.

Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio Stands Trial for Racial Profiling: The trial in the ACLU’s lawsuit against Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio ended in August, and we are awaiting a ruling. The lawsuit charged that Sheriff Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office have unlawfully instituted a pattern and practice of targeting Latino drivers and passengers in Maricopa County during traffic stops. Learn more about the trial and the case here.

2012 ACLU Reports on Policing:

·         Island of Impunity: Puerto Rico's Outlaw Police Force: The Puerto Rico Police Department commits serious and rampant Constitutional and human rights abuses, including excessive and lethal force against civilians and brutal suppression of peaceful protests. Read the report here.

·         NYPD Stop-and-Frisk Activity in 2011: Beyond quarterly paper reports, the NYPD maintains a computerized database of its stop-and-frisk program. Having successfully sued the NYPD to obtain the database, the NYCLU is able to provide a much more detailed picture of the stop-and-frisk program than is provided by the NYPD’s quarterly reports. Read the NYCLU report to find out what happened in 2011.

Working to End the Death Penalty
Connecticut Repeals the Death Penalty: When Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed legislation to repeal the death penalty on April 25, Connecticut became the 17th in the nation to do so. The ACLU helped harness the support of a wide coalition to support this bill, including murder victims’ families, law enforcement, and ACLU members.

First Racial Justice Act Litigation is a Success: In April, a state judge commuted ACLU client Marcus Robinson’s sentence from death to life without parole in light of powerful statistical evidence of racial bias in North Carolina jury selection. Read more about the case here, including the final opinion with detailed findings of racial bias in capital cases in North Carolina. Read more about the Racial Justice Act here.

Damon Thibodeaux Exonerated after 15 Years on Louisiana’s Death Row: On September 28, ACLU client Damon Thibodeaux was exonerated for a murder he did not commit and freed from Louisiana’s death row, where he spent the last 15 years. Mr. Thibodeaux’s case, which rested in large part on a false confession, is a tragic example of why the ACLU has long called for police to videotape all interrogations. Learn more about Mr. Thibodeaux’s case by reading this blog post from ACLU Capital Punishment Project director Denny LeBoeuf, who has represented Mr. Thibodeaux since 1998, and coverage from the AP and CNN. In addition, you can read Denny’s op-ed in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and the “reply” op-ed from a conservative columnist – agreeing that it is time to abolish the death penalty.

·         Other ACLU clients removed from death row in 2012 include LaSamuel Gamble (Alabama), Ray McNeil (North Carolina), and Manuel Velez (Texas).

California Voters Move More Than Twenty Points Toward Support of Repeal: We were disappointed that California voters rejected Prop 34, which would have replaced the death penalty in that state with life without parole. But there’s a silver lining: 47% of voters approved the measure, which is a major improvement in public opinion from 1978, when more than 70% of Californians voted to reinstate the death penalty. Natasha Minsker, Campaign Manager of Yes on 34, has returned to the ACLU of Northern California as its Death Penalty Policy Director. For more, read a blog post we wrote before the election. 

Fighting Prison Privatization

Fighting Private Prisons in the States:
·         Florida: The efforts of the ACLU and other private prisons opponents were rewarded when the state senate voted 21-19 against a bill to privatize every prison in southern Florida. The ACLU also helped defeat plans to build a private immigration detention center, in part with this op-ed from former ACLU attorney David Shapiro.
·         Idaho: The ACLU sent a letter in November to the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) detailing its concerns about safety at the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise. CCA appears to be violating a settlement reached with prisoners over violence at the CCA-run prison.
·         Illinois: Plans to build a private immigration detention center were shut down after pressure from the ACLU and other groups.
·         Maine: The ACLU testified against a bill designed to facilitate the creation and use of private prisons, and was pleased to see the bill fail.
·         Ohio: In September, officials decided not to seek further privatization of state prisons. The decision came after vocal criticism of potential privatization by the ACLU and other groups.

The ACLU Takes on Corrections Corporation of America: In February, CCA sent a letter in to 48 state governors offering to buy state-run prisons on the condition that those prisons remain full for 20 years. The ACLU and 26 other organizations, including faith groups, sent letters to those governors urging them to decline CCA’s offer. USA Today ran two articles examining the ethical concerns raised by the proposal. Read them here and here. To our knowledge, no governors took up CCA’s offer. We also challenged CCA to debate the merits of prison privatization, and although they shrank from that challenge in 2012, the invitation remains open in 2013. 


lsrtx said...

Did I fail to read enough to see the word Texas.????

Gritsforbreakfast said...

There were one or two Texas items, but it was mostly a national overview.

Lee said...

Q: What does Texas and a black hole have in common?
A: They both suck.

Anonymous said...

Texas needs to get with it and get thier justice system together. Our prisons are over populated because of thier misguided justice!

Anonymous said...

Texas needs to get with it and get thier justice system together. Our prisons are over populated because of thier misguided justice!