Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Odds and Ends on a busy day

While Grits' attention is focused elsewhere, here are several items which deserve readers' attention:
  • The epicenter of marijuana legalization advocacy in Texas lies not in Austin but in El Paso.
  • New York will now use special prosecutors in police misconduct cases, a proposal considered in Texas this spring which regrettably failed to gain traction.
  • In an editorial lamenting jail overcrowding and the role of bail in heightening pretrial detention levels, the Houston Chronicle concluded that, "It is the job of our courts to distinguish the guilty from the innocent, but right now we're doing a better job of separating the wealthy from the poor."
  • NPR has a story on innocent bikers caught up in the police sweep following the Twin Peaks massacre in Waco.
  • Our pal Maurice Chammah has a series for the Marshall Project on "How Germany Does Prisons." See also this discussion of solitary confinement in Germany, which is rarely used.
  • An addition to Grits' summer reading list: From the Congressional Research Service, "Risk and Needs Assessment in the Criminal Justice System."
  • I'd missed this from the Vera Institute when they released it in May: "The Price of Jails: Measuring the Taxpayer Cost of Local Incarceration."
  • Grits remains a big fan of Alexandra Natapoff and was delighted to discover her new paper on public defenders and the criminalization of poverty. From the abstract: "In ways that slip beneath the doctrinal radar, public defenders often behave like social workers. They find drug treatment and jobs for their clients, and intervene with landlords and employers. Conversely — and ironically — many civil welfare service providers act increasingly like law enforcement officials. This role-switching — by criminal lawyers and civil servants alike — is a function of the tight connection between criminalization and poverty: poor people tend to get swept up in the criminal system and such encounters tend to make people poor. This nexus is particularly powerful in the world of minor offenses and urban policing in which crime, unemployment, racial segregation, and lack of social infrastructure swirl around in one large, nearly inextricable mass."

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