Bail System – Illinois

Rauner signs law to change rules for paying cash to get out of jail, By Kim Geiger, June 9, 2017, Chicago Tribune: “Low-level offenders who have been arrested and can’t come up with enough money to get out of jail can get a rehearing of their bail amount, under a plan signed into law Friday by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner…”

Court Fines and the Poor

An alternative to paying court debt: Working it off, By Rebecca Beitsch, April 4, 2017, Stateline: “When Steven Robinson first landed in county jail here for cocaine possession about a year ago, he had about $12,000 in court debt and his driver’s license had been suspended for more than 20 years because he never paid off earlier fines and fees. But Robinson, 47, and other inmates in the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail are allowed to do community service to work off the debt that they rack up in fines and fees on their way through the court system. By doing more than 1,000 hours of community service while serving time, Robinson has gotten his debt down to about $5,000…”

Bail System – California

Here’s how state lawmakers plan to reform the bail system in CaliforniaBy Jazmine Ulloa, March 26, 2017, Los Angeles Times: “State lawmakers have unveiled an ambitious plan to reform how counties in California set bail for defendants while they wait for their cases to be resolved or go to trial.  New language added Friday to bills by Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) would prevent criminal defendants from having to post money as a condition of release from jail and would shift some power from judges to pretrial services agencies to assess the risks they would pose if allowed out in the community…”

Children of Incarcerated Parents

How mass incarceration pushes black children further behind in school, By Melinda D. Anderson, January 16, 2017, The Atlantic: “In the summer of 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the closing remarks at the March on Washington. More than 200,000 people gathered to cast a national spotlight on and mobilize resistance to Jim Crow, racist laws and policies that disenfranchised black Americans and mandated segregated housing, schools, and employment. Today, more than 50 years later, remnants of Jim Crow segregation persist in the form of mass incarceration—the imprisonment of millions of Americans, overwhelmingly and disproportionately black adults, in local, state, and federal prisons…”

Prison Diversion Programs and the Poor

  • After a crime, the price of a second chance, By Shaila Dewan and Andrew W. Lehren, December 12, 2016, New York Times: “During the tough financial times of 2011, Marcy Willis, a single mother who raised five children in Atlanta, used her credit card to rent a car for an acquaintance in exchange for cash. But the man — and the car — disappeared, she said. Four months later, when Ms. Willis finally recovered the car and returned it, she was charged with felony theft.  As a first-time offender, Ms. Willis, 52, qualified for a big break: a program called pretrial intervention, also known as diversion. If she took 12 weeks of classes, performed 24 hours of community service and stayed out of trouble, her case would be dismissed and her arrest could be expunged, leaving her record clean…”
  • Alabama prosecutor sets the penalties and fills the coffers, By Shaila Dewan and Andrew W. Lehren, December 13, 2016, New York Times: “It was a run-of-the-mill keg party in an open field, until one guest, Harvey Drayton Burch III, objected to paying for his beer. Witnesses said Mr. Burch fired a gun over the crowd and began spraying Mace. With partyers fleeing, Mr. Burch jumped into the back seat of a car as it drove away.  The driver had a name well known in Henry County: Douglas A. Valeska II, the son of the local district attorney. When the car was stopped, a deputy found a loaded magazine and knife in Mr. Burch’s pocket, a gun and pepper spray in a backpack, and a pink pill on the floorboard. After Mr. Burch admitted to firing his weapon, he was arrested. The district attorney arrived to take his son and two other passengers home…”

Medicaid Coverage for Ex-Inmates

Signed out of prison but not signed up for health insurance, December 5, 2016, National Public Radio: “Before he went to prison, Ernest killed his 2-year-old daughter in the grip of a psychotic delusion. When the Indiana Department of Correction released him in 2015, he was terrified something awful might happen again.  He had to see a doctor. He had only a month’s worth of pills to control his delusions and mania. He was desperate for insurance coverage.  But the state failed to enroll him in Medicaid, although under the Affordable Care Act Indiana had expanded the health insurance program to include most ex-inmates. Left to navigate an unwieldy bureaucracy on his own, he came within days of running out of the pills that ground him in reality…”

Prisoner Reentry

AG Lynch: School system to run in federal prison system, By Kevin Johnson, November 30, 2016, USA Today: “Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Wednesday that a school system would be formed within the vast federal prison network as part of a series of efforts to drive down recidivism and create a clearer path for thousands of inmates to re-enter their home communities…”

Prisoner Re-entry

  • Administration aims to fight crime with job training, By Carrie Johnson and Lori Mack, September 20, 2016, National Public Radio: “The Labor Department will hand out $5 million in grants to fund job centers for people coming out of jails, part of a broader Obama administration initiative to help reduce recidivism, NPR has learned. ‘The earlier you start investing in people who are incarcerated, the better the odds of a successful outcome,’ Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in an interview…”
  • Michigan tries to counter boomerang effect with prison job training program, By David Eggert (AP), September 27, 2016, Crain’s Detroit Business: “Few states have been more aggressive in releasing inmates and diverting offenders than Michigan, where a decade ago, one out of every 200 people was in prison, and penal costs were beginning to crowd out basic government services. After easing parole policies, the state managed to cut its 51,000-plus prison population by about 18 percent. But costs kept surpassing $2 billion a year, in part because too many freed inmates came back after committing new crimes or violating parole or probation rules. Now Michigan is trying to stop the boomerang effect with a new program that removes soon-to-be-released inmates from the general population and assigns them to an exclusive ‘vocational village’ for job training…”

Incarceration in Rural Areas

This small Indiana county sends more people to prison than San Francisco and Durham, N.C., combined. Why?, By Josh Keller and Adam Pearce, September 2, 2016, New York Times: “Donnie Gaddis picked the wrong county to sell 15 oxycodone pills to an undercover officer.  If Mr. Gaddis had been caught 20 miles to the east, in Cincinnati, he would have received a maximum of six months in prison, court records show. In San Francisco or Brooklyn, he would probably have received drug treatment or probation, lawyers say.  But Mr. Gaddis lived in Dearborn County, Ind., which sends more people to prison per capita than nearly any other county in the United States. After agreeing to a plea deal, he was sentenced to serve 12 years in prison…”

US Bail System and the Poor

  • Obama’s lawyers challenge the money bail system: Can people be kept in jail just because they are poor?, By David Savage, August 25, 2016, Chicago Tribune: “President Obama’s civil rights lawyers are seeking a potentially far-reaching ruling to hold that the Constitution forbids the common practice of keeping people in jail prior to a trial, even for minor offenses, just because they are too poor to pay for bail.  Every day, about 450,000 people are held under arrest in city and county jails because they cannot afford bail, according to the Southern Center for Human Rights and Equal Justice Under Law, a small Washington-based civil rights group…”
  • Justice department steps in against jailing practices that target poor people, By Jamiles Lartey, August 24, 2016, The Guardian: “Maurice Walker’s case is far from exceptional.  Arrested on 3 September 2015 for public intoxication, Walker, a 54-year-old black man with a serious mental disorder that leaves him unable to work, was faced with two options: pay a $160 cash bond and leave jail that day, or remain in jail over a holiday weekend. Walker told officials that he couldn’t afford the standard bond required by the city for the misdemeanor and wound up spending six days in jail, only being allowed out of his cell for an hour a day. Walker said he was also denied daily medication he took for his disorder…”

Incarceration and Medicaid Coverage – Pennsylvania

Bill aims to make Medicaid enrollment smoother for those leaving jail in Pennsylvania, By Kate Giammarise, July 6, 2016, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “Medicaid stops at prison and jail walls in Pennsylvania, and getting it started up again can take time.  However, a change in the state’s Human Services code would mean Medicaid is suspended, rather than terminated, for those who are incarcerated. That would allow people who leave prison to be immediately re-enrolled and have health care, rather than having up to 45 days after they leave prison in which they can’t get needed medication…”

Pell Grant Program for Prisoners

12,000 inmates to receive Pell grants to take college classes, By Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, June 24, 2016, Washington Post: “As many as 12,000 prison inmates will be able to use federal Pell grants to finance college classes next month, despite a 22-year congressional ban on providing financial aid to prisoners.  The Obama administration selected 67 colleges and universities Thursday for the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program, an experiment to help prisoners earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree while incarcerated. The schools will work with more than 100 federal and state penitentiaries to enroll inmates who qualify for Pell, a form of federal aid that covers tuition, books and fees for college students with financial need. Prisoners must be eligible for release within five years of enrolling in coursework…”

Court Fines and the Poor

Debtors prison a thing of the past? Some places in America still lock up the poor, By Rick Anderson, June 8, 2016, Los Angeles Times: “Unemployed and fighting to stay clean, Jayne Fuentes had few options when a judge offered her a particularly unappealing choice – go to jail or spend her days on a work crew. Her crime? Being too poor to pay the fines and court costs that came with a drug conviction and several theft charges…”

Court Fines and the Poor

How prison debt ensnares offenders, By Juleyka Lantigua-Williams, June 2, 2016, The Atlantic: “Even after serving time for a felony conviction, former inmates can remain legally bound to the judicial system for the rest of their lives due to court-imposed fines and fees related to their crime. In some counties in Washington State that adds up to an average of $9,204, according to Alexes Harris’s new book A Pound of Flesh…”

Public Defender System – Louisiana

On the defensive, By Dylan Walsh, June 2, 2016, The Atlantic: “Concordia Parish extends tall and narrow along the Mississippi River, where the ankle of Louisiana meets the instep. Almost one-third of its 20,000 residents live below the federal poverty line. Strip malls dominate Vidalia, the parish seat. Smaller satellite towns are home to Pentecostal mega-churches, defunct gas stations, and tin-sided shacks selling crawfish for $2 a pound. State highways run through low fields once flush with cotton that was picked by slaves and sold across the river to Natchez.  Near the river is the parish courthouse, a low-slung building made of concrete and set behind a grassy berm. The court opens at 9:30, but the halls fill before then. People sit on the floor outside the double-doors of the courtroom entrance, crowd together on benches, wander around to find the offices where they can get the documents or signatures that they need…”

Children of Incarcerated Parents

Having a parent behind bars costs children, states, By Teresa Wiltz, May 24, 2016, Stateline: “Jamaill never knew his mother. When he was 1, his father was incarcerated, and Jamaill got to know him largely through letters and phone calls. Twice a year, he would trek from Brooklyn to an upstate New York prison to visit — a trip that involved a plane ride, a long drive and an overnight stay in a motel. Now, the 10th-grader’s father has been transferred to another prison even farther away. So they’ll stay in touch with ‘televisits,’ video-conferenced meetings. Jamaill doesn’t think it should be so hard for kids to see their imprisoned parents. And that’s what he told New York state legislators in March…”

Baby Nurseries in Prisons

Babies behind bars: Should moms do time with their newborns?, By Colleen Long (AP), May 25, 2016, Arizona Daily Star: “Jennifer Dumas sits on a sofa, her smiling 6-month-old girl on her lap. The room is full of bright toys and children’s books. A rainbow-colored activity mat is on the floor, and Winnie the Pooh is painted on the walls. It looks like any other nursery, except that there are bars on the windows and barbed-wire fences outside the austere brick building. New York’s maximum-security Bedford Hills Correctional Facility is one of the very few prisons in the U.S. that allow inmates and their babies to live together, a century-old approach that not all corrections experts agree is the best way to deal with women locked up while pregnant. Mothers who get such a chance say it’s better than the alternative: In most prisons, babies born behind bars must be given up within a day to a relative or foster care…”

Children of Incarcerated Parents

  • When parents are in prison, children suffer, By KJ Dell’Antonia, April 26, 2016, New York Times: “Morgan Gliedman’s 3-year-old daughter keeps a few pictures of her visits with her dad taped to the wall by her bed, and the rest in a little pink suitcase along with his letters.  She’s full of ideas for what she’ll do with him when his ‘time out’ is over: camping, baking bread, reading bedtime stories. The earliest that can happen will be when she is in first grade, and he is eligible for parole from his seven-year-minimum prison sentence on criminal weapons charges.  She is just one of the five million American children who have had a parent incarcerated at some point in their lives. Her father’s sentence is hers, too…”
  • Parents in prison: How to help US children?, By Ben Thompson, April 25, 2016, Christian Science Monitor: “A new report, ‘A Shared Sentence,’ shows that millions of children in the United States have lived without one or both of their parents due to incarceration in recent years.  The policy report by The Annie E. Casey Foundation listed a ‘conservative estimate’ that 5.1 million children nationwide, or seven percent, had a parent behind bars at some point in their lives. That figure only includes children whose parents lived with them at some point…”
  • Study: Having jailed parents can have lifelong effect on child’s health, By Kristi L. Nelson, April 25, 2016, Knoxville News Sentinel: “Having a parent in jail can have lifelong effects on a child’s health and ability to succeed, a report released today indicates…”
  • 10 percent of Michigan kids have parents in prison, By Oralandar Brand-Williams, April 25, 2016, Detroit News: “Michigan is among the states with the highest number of children who have a parent behind bars, according to a report released Monday. Some 228,000 children — one out of 10 — have had a parent incarcerated, according to Kids Count in its report ‘A Shared Sentence: The Devastating Toll of Parental Incarceration of Kids, Families and Communities.’  Michigan ranked fifth in the number of kids affected in 2011-12, the latest figures available. California was first with 503,000, followed by Texas, Florida and Ohio…”
  • Casey Foundation report: Incarceration of parents hurts children and families, By Andrea K. McDaniels, April 25, 2016, Baltimore Sun: “Nearly 6 percent of children in Maryland have a parent in prison or jail, which makes it more likely that they will struggle academically, live in poverty, and have other social or psychological problems that could plague them for life. These are the findings of a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation about the damaging ripple effects of incarceration on families…”

Medicaid Coverage for Ex-Inmates

Feds act to help more ex-inmates get Medicaid, By Jay Hancock, April 29, 2016, National Public Radio: “Administration officials moved Thursday to improve low Medicaid enrollment for emerging prisoners, urging states to start signups before release and expanding eligibility to thousands of former inmates in halfway houses near the end of their sentences.  Health coverage for ex-inmates ‘is critical to our goal of reducing recidivism and promoting the public health,’ said Richard Frank, assistant secretary for planning for the Department of Health and Human Services.  Advocates praised the changes but cautioned that HHS and states are still far from ensuring that most people leaving prisons and jails are put on Medicaid and get access to treatment…”

Public Defender System – Louisiana

In Louisiana, the poor lack legal defense, By Campbell Robertson, March 19, 2016, New York Times: “It was arraignment morning at the Vermilion Parish courthouse, the monthly catalog of bad decisions, hot tempers, hard hearts and hard luck. Natasha George, who until recently was one of 10 lawyers defending the poor of the parish, stood before the full gallery of defendants. ‘I’m the public defender in Vermilion Parish, right now the only public defender,’ she said. ‘Due to a lack of funding for our district and our office, today we will be taking applications for our service but you will be put on a wait list.’ Over the next hour, a steady stream of people left the courthouse and headed out into the rain, nearly all holding a sheet of paper explaining that as the poor and accused of Vermilion Parish they were, for now, on their own…”