What Is Criminal Justice Reform
Criminal justice reform is working to end the sheer number of prisoners in the justice system through both litigation and advocacy. By fighting for nationwide reform at a variety of government levels, the nation can right wrongs before the problem becomes worse.
While no criminal justice system is entirely perfect, neither is that of the United States. Reform aims to fix these errors, and there are a number of organizations involved in the movement in various ways, including:
- Reducing harsh prison sentences
- Changing the drug sentencing policy surrounding the war on drugs
- Prioritizing rehabilitation of offenders, especially juvenile offenders
- Altering policies surrounding food assistance programs and voting rights for previous offenders
- Changing minimum sentencing laws
No matter the area in which criminal justice reform works to change the system, its all about the people affected by the prison systems. One of the main purposes, according to an article in USA Today, is the need to offer offenders redemption and rehabilitation after their sentences end.
Recommendations For Future Research
First, research needs to examine how community policing and officer wellness programs can simultaneously improve outcomes for the community and law enforcement. The either/or model simply does not work any longer. Instead, research should determine what is best for local communities and improves the health and well-being of law enforcement. Second, future research on policing needs to examine the role that protests against police brutality, particularly related to Black Lives Matter protests, are having on reform at the local, state, and federal levels. It is important for policymakers to readily understand the demands of their constituents and ways to create peace and civility.
Finally, research needs to fully examine legislation to reallocate and shift funding away from and within police department budgets.19 By taking a market-driven, evidence-based approach to police funding, the same methodology can be used that will lead to different results depending on the municipality. Police department budgets should be fiscally responsible and shift funding to focusing on solving violent crime, while simultaneously reducing use of force on low-income and racial/ethnic minority communities. It is a tall order, but federal funding could be allocated to examine all of these important research endeavors. It is a must if the United States is to stay as a world leader in this space. It is clear our country is falling short at this time.
Police Use Of Force On Mentally Ill Individuals
Another dimension of police work receiving scrutiny in the 2010s is the interactions between police officers and individuals with mental illness. “Twenty-five percent or more of people fatally shot by the police have had a mental disorder”, according to various analyses. Experts in criminal justice say that funding for mental health services in many parts of the country is insufficient, therefore, police are likely to encounter mentally ill people. In response to negative reactions from the public and high-profile violent interactions between police and mentally ill individuals, some police departments are increasing their specialized training and changing their tactics for their interactions with mentally ill people. For example, all officers in Portland, Oregon receive 40 hours of “crisis intervention training”. Officers in some departments may specialize in this type of work, similar to how other officers specialize in SWAT, narcotics, or K-9.
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F Shrinking& Refining The Footprint Of The Police
Finally, the legal estrangement perspective raisesfundamental questions about the role of police in society. Policeandmore broadly, the criminal justice systemhave become the primary vehiclethrough which the state responds to social deprivation.342At times, police can play a positive role in channeling resources to people whoneed them, particularly as a conduit into diversion and decarceration programsthat may, for example, help people get into counseling and narcoticsrehabilitation programs.343Yet as a matter of principle, routing rehabilitation and social servicesthrough the police could perversely widen the carceral net and reify theculture of control.344The expansion of policing control has added to police departments coffers overthe past three decades, leading to the growth of many forces.345Yet even police officers complain that the system expects them to play anoutsized role in poor peoples daily lives, performing functions that supplantwork ideally done by the welfare state and social services.346This workresponding to mental health crisis,347truancy,348homelessness,349and more350isdone by civil servants who are authorized to carry guns and use lethal force.351It is done by civil servants who, through the mechanisms of self-selection,352institutional culture,353and perhaps more, may be more punitive or less empathetic than the averagecivil servant.354
Black Organizers Are Calling For Divestment From Policing And Investment In Human Needs Across The Country
As part of its platform, the Movement for Black Lives calls for the reallocation of federal, state, and local government funds from “policing and incarceration to long-term strategies for education, restorative justice services, and employment programs.
In Chicago, the #NoCopAcademy campaign galvanized thousands of community members and garnered the support of more than 100 community organizations in urging the city to shift funding for a new $95 million police academy to programs that benefit youth and communities.
Faced with budget shortfalls and urgent health care needsat least 13 cities have made cuts to their police budgets.
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Police Reform In The United States
The history of law enforcement in the United States includes many efforts at police reform. Early efforts at police reform often involved external commissions, such as the Wickersham Commission, that spelled out reforms but left to the police to implement them, often with limited success.
A series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions under the Warren Court led to important changes in policing, with respect to civil rights and constitutional law. Mapp v. Ohio in 1961 and Miranda v. Arizona in 1966 were two highly influential court decisions.Mapp v. Ohio found that evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures” may not be used in criminal prosecutions. Miranda v. Arizona required that criminal suspects must be informed of their right to consult with an attorney and of their right against self-incrimination prior to questioning by police. These decisions began to set national standards for policing.
Special commissions, such as the Knapp Commission in New York City during the 1970s, have been used to bring about changes in law enforcement agencies.Civilian review boards have also been used as a means for improving police accountability. Civilian review boards tend to focus on individual complaints, rather than broader organizational issues that may result in long-term improvements.
Restructure Civilian Payouts For Police Misconduct
From 20152019, the 20 largest U.S. municipalities spent over $2 billion in civilian payouts for police misconduct. Rather than the police department budget, these funds mostly come from general funds.15 So, not only is the officer absolved from civil or financial culpability, but the police department often faces little financial liability. Instead, the financial burden falls onto the municipality thus, taxpayers. This money could be going toward education, work, and infrastructure.
Not only are the financial settlement often expensive, like the $20 million awarded to William Greens family in Prince Georges County, Maryland, but the associated legal fees and deteriorated community trust are costly. In a place like Chicago, over the past 20 years, it has spent about $700 million on civilian payouts for police misconduct. New York City spent about $300 million in the span of a few years.
Bottom line, police almost never suffer any financial consequences for their own misconduct.
Shifting civilian payouts away from tax money and to police department insurance policies would instantly change the accountability structure.
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Years After The Supreme Court Judgment In Prakash Singh Case We Must Ask Whats Holding Up Police Reforms Indians Lack Of Appreciation For Good Policing Or The Feeling Of Having Given Up
On 22 September 2006, the Supreme Court of India delivered its landmark judgment in the famous Prakash Singh case, mandating country-wide police reform and issuing seven crucial directives to immediately start the implementation process. The 15th anniversary of the judgment this week is a good occasion to take stock of where we stand on the reform front.
Unfortunately, not much has changed in the way policing is done in India. Despite widespread disenchantment and discontent with the functioning of the police force, the cause of reform has not captured the imagination of Indians. Is it because of inadequate appreciation of the importance of good policing for the health of a vibrant democratic society with economic potential to develop into a world power? Or, is it sheer apathy a feeling of having given up? Possibly, a mix of both.
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Why Have Police Reform Efforts Failed
It has always been clear that Donald Trump views every interaction as a zero-sum game in which winning via domination is paramount. He made that clear during a phone call with governors on Monday night.
President Trump told some of the nations governors Monday that they are weak and they need to dominate the protesters who have taken to the streets in dozens of cities across the country in recent days to express their rage, frustration, and sadness about police brutality and racism.
If you dont dominate youre wasting your time, Trump reportedly told the governors. Theyre going to run over you, youre going to look like a bunch of jerks. You have to dominate.
The president isnt the only one to hold that view. Police departments all over the country are demonstrating this kind of warrior mentality in response to protests. But as Maggie Koerth and Jamiles Lartey document, weve known for decades now that it doesnt work.
Researchers have spent 50 years studying the way crowds of protesters and crowds of police behave and what happens when the two interact. One thing they will tell you is that when the police respond by escalating force wearing riot gear from the start, or using tear gas on protesters it doesnt work. In fact, disproportionate police force is one of the things that can make a peaceful protest not so peaceful.
Newport Beach is going to recruit people who are drawn to police work because they want to be warriors.
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The Role Of Implicit Bias In Police Action
In circumstances that are chaotic and potentially dangerous, the moment when police engage with protesters is especially fraught, Glaser said. Clad with military body protection and armed with advanced weapons, they may see themselves more as warriors battling an enemy than as guardians protecting a community. They may become more aggressive.
An officers implicit biases might amp up that response. We know that humans have automatic stereotypes that get activated about young people, males, about minorities that are going to cause them to interpret their behaviors as threatening, Glaser explained. So, if they see a young man of color wearing a mask walking toward them, that could be more threatening to them than a young white woman, or an older white woman.
A different sort of bias may explain the restrained police response to recent protests by armed right-wing groups in Michigan, Kentucky and Ohio.
We have to seriously consider the possibility that the passive police response to armed white protesters was due to racial preferences, Glaser said. At the very least, white police officers are going to be more likely to give white anti-government protesters the benefit of the doubt. The data on race and policing is too clear that black people are treated with greater suspicion, disrespect and physical force.
Tell Your Governor: Invest In Our Communities Not Policing
We need real change. Thats why we must stop investing in police and incarceration and instead intentionally invest in alternative models that are centered in community and address the root causes of harm, in addition to making greater investments in schools, health care, and other human needs that keep our communities safe.
Here is why we should all support the call to defund the police:
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Police Reform Is Necessary But How Do We Do It
A discussion about changes in policing, moderated by Emily Bazelon.
A discussion about how to reform policing.Moderated by Emily Bazelon
On Memorial Day, the police in Minneapolis killed George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man. Three officers stood by or assisted as a fourth, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee into Floyds neck for more than eight minutes. Floyd said he could not breathe and then became unresponsive. His death has touched off the largest and most sustained round of protests the country has seen since the 1960s, as well as demonstrations around the world. The killing has also prompted renewed calls to address brutality, racial disparities and impunity in American policing and beyond that, to change the conditions that burden black and Latino communities.
Alicia Garza is the principal of Black Futures Lab, the director of strategy and partnerships for the National Domestic Workers Alliance and a founder of Supermajority, a new womens activist group. Between 2013 and 2015, she helped coin the phrase #BlackLivesMatter and helped found the Black Lives Matter Global Network. Her forthcoming book, The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart, will be published in October.
Phillip Atiba Goff is a founder and the chief executive of the Center for Policing Equity, a research-and-action think tank at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where he is also the Franklin A. Thomas Professor in Policing Equity.
The Use of Deadly Force
Bipartisan Police Reform Talks Crumble
Negotiators had tried to focus on a slimmed down version of the legislation without qualified immunity reform. But even that proved too difficult.
The bipartisan police reform talks have officially collapsed.
The end to the discussions comes after Sens. Cory Booker and Tim Scott and Rep. Karen Bass spent months trying to reach an agreement with little progress. The negotiators had moved their self-imposed deadline for coming to a deal several times, but the differences between both sides ultimately proved too vast.
Among the key sticking points was reforming qualified immunity, which shields police officers from civil liability for misdeeds. Negotiators hit a stalemate on that provision and ultimately decided to take it off the table this summer. Instead, they focused on a slimmed down version of the legislation but even that proved too difficult.
âThe effort from the very beginning was to get police reform that would raise professional standards, police reform that would create a more transparent way, one that would create accountability and we were not able to come to agreements on those three big areas,â Booker told reporters Wednesday. âIt was clear to me that we werenât making any more substantive progress.â
Scott, meanwhile, blamed Democrats for walking away from the talks and said that he had tried to introduce a compromise bill, but Democrats rejected the idea.
The Wall Street Journal was the first to report the end to the police reform discussions.
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There Has To Be A Solution We Cannot Go Without One
Just recently, a young man suspected of stealing pizza in New York City was assaulted by police as he was surrendering. He was defenseless and holding his hands up, which is when one of New Yorks finest thought it would be a good time to punch him thrice in the head. It is again entirely probable that the violent, hair-trigger policeman in this case will suffer no meaningful consequences whatsoever, outside of perhaps being put on a weeks desk duty inside an air-conditioned precinct.
In Virginia, an Iraq War veteran was sleeping in a model unit of his apartment building due to a plumbing problem in his own unit a neighbor thought he was breaking and entering and called the police on him. The police inexplicably responded by conducting a no-knock raid. The veteran awoke surrounded by three officers with their guns drawn and aimed at him he was handcuffed and searched before they discovered his identity. A shift commander described this inept, terroristic response as on point.
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Police Reform After The Murder Of George Floyd
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After the murder of George Floyd, protesters began to call for “Defunding the Police“. In the year after this event, multiple states, including Massachusetts and Colorado passed bipartisan measures which significantly altered law enforcement practices.
At the national level, both House Democrats and Senate Republicans proposed separate pieces of new legislation which would enact similar changes federally.The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act sought to establish new requirements for federal law enforcement on both the use of deadly force and less lethal force. It also encourages state and local adoption of consistent laws. Specifically, it states that if an officer were to be charged with murder or manslaughter, he or she would be restricted in claiming that the act was justified if their own negligence leading up to the incident resulted in the necessary use of such force. It was passed by the House in 2020 and 2021, but both times Republican opposition was able to use the Senate filibuster to prevent passage into law.
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Theres No Turning Away
Police violence against black men has been a persistent American tragedy. What makes the death of George Floyd such a tectonic shock was the seeming indifference of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin and colleagues who were taking Floyd into custody, all while being filmed.
Nine minutes of a police officer with his knee on the neck of a man whos saying he cant breathe, Glaser said. This man is being held down by two other officers, so theres not even a concern about flight. We can all see him die in slow motion. Theres no turning away from that.
And yet, Chauvin and other police officers who kill or brutalize are the exceptions, not the norm. Glaser expressed deep sympathy for the challenges of men and women in law enforcement. Theyre human, and theyre complex. And society gives them conflicting messages: Should they be guardians? Or warriors?
Putting them into a volatile protest, or into a riot, is the ultimate stress test.
Theyre going into a situation where they think they might get hurt, Glaser explained. And there are very few people who are not afraid under those circumstances. Some officers have told me that, in the first situation where they came under fire, they soiled themselves. Its totally understandable.
But in a moment of chaos and potential violence, fear can make some officers aggressive.