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Justice Reform

The Youth Correctional Leaders for Justice published a statement highlighting the need for justice in youth prisons. The United States criminal justice system like many other systems has flaws. The U.S. has long been the global leader in youth incarceration, as it locks young people up at a higher rate than any other nation. This effects not only the youth, but also their families and social ties by creating trauma and burdens on all. Youth incarceration is overused, as well as ineffective and inefficient when it comes to changing their behavior and positively influencing them.

More cities are realizing that in order to keep youth off the streets and out of jail, they need to have access to community programs and rehabilitative resources. Adolescents are still growing and developing when they are convicted of crimes and sitting in jail does not help them develop or learn from their mistakes. Punitive measures are becoming less and less conducive to changing the behavior of individuals, especially youth. Proper intervention for youth at risk of committing crimes is beneficial for the individual and public safety.

Racism also plays a heavy role in youth incarceration. With justice reform being a prominent topic right now, racism must also be addressed in youth prison systems. By dismantling youth prison systems, it protects children from physical and mental abuse, addresses the problem of racism, and provides alternatives to programs that will help steer adolescents in the right direction.

The joint statement by Fair and Just Prosecution and Youth Correctional Leaders for Justice on Youth Prisons highlights all of these issues and how improving youth corrections will improve public safety, reduce recidivism and keep children from falling into the revolving door of the criminal justice system. There needs to be positive and supportive change in their lives for them to realize the potential they have. Rehabilitation is the new ‘punishment’, in the hopes of helping adolescents stay out of prison and creating second chances for them.

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Justice Reform

Facilities and programs are facing difficult decisions when it comes to budgeting and funding as many lack funds on a daily basis, even more so now with COVID-19. The Government Executive posted an article on how agencies will need to spend a little to gain a lot to help them in the long run. With COVID-19 hitting the world hard, “tackling societal challenges will require federal, state and local governments to turn to innovation that’s supported by credible evidence.” This will prove to be a process but one that is necessary to continue operating and providing for those who need it.

One step that has been discussed is that public agencies should take a very small percentage, around 1 – 2% of program dollars, to create an innovation fund within every major program or portfolio of related programs. These programs range from reducing substance abuse addictions or lowering recidivism and prison rates, or even boosting high school graduation and the number of children able to go to school. These innovation funds should be structured so that agencies can address a number of issues using a variety of strategies.

One strategy is ‘“tiered-evidence” grants to test, validate and scale effective policies and interventions.” This strategy uses successful models at the federal level to provide. Another is prizes and challenges that use cash awards and other incentives to create a wide net for innovative solutions to priority issues. These can be won by any individual, business, institution and non-profit organization. Outcome payments require specific outcomes to be achieved by providers and result in payments but still allow for innovative approaches in order to receive the payment. These have included projects aimed at reducing prison recidivism, substance abuse and homeless populations while keeping them out of jail. Finally, waiver demonstrations allow jurisdictions or providers to modify existing program rules. This protects vulnerable populations while making sure the program is effective.

It may seem crazy to suggest investing a little more with such limited funds, but it is necessary in order to create long term benefits. These innovative funds are one step in the right direction when it comes to changing the system and making progress. Investing a little now and spending will only prove successful and show agencies they have a lot to gain from it.

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Justice Reform

With criminal justice reform, comes discussions on focusing towards better serving children and teens on the autism spectrum who have become entangled in the juvenile justice system. Washington State University posted an article about how youth on the spectrum need more access to mental health support and programs. This would allow for them to have counseling and supporters that can advocate for their needs in the system.

A juvenile probation counselor in Washington’s Cowlitz County thinks more training is necessary for police and corrections officers to help them recognize signs of autism, as many do not realize the wide variety of signs that people can exhibit. According to the CDC data from 2016, 1 in 54 children in the United States have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls, making this a very real and relevant circumstance that officers or court officials will come into contact with a child suffering from autism.

With this comes the approach of transitioning from a punitive system to a more rehabilitative one to help youth and reduce recidivism. Effort must be put into creating more resources and support for children suffering from autism that are intertwined with the law. By taking a more rehabilitative approach, the juvenile justice system can improve recidivism rates and keep children out of prison. Individuals need to be more cognizant and supportive that children who suffer from autism do not necessarily realize right from wrong. Even though they may require more mental health support, they are children who wish to have a normal life and are as teachable as other children not suffering from autism.

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Justice Reform
The Daily Mining Gazette posted an article bringing to light how much a person’s past can affect their present day lives, no matter the time period. Past mistakes for people, including criminal records, still affect the lives of many. No matter how long it has been since their criminal acts, they are unable to move on from them because they pop up everywhere. Criminal records are a constant reminder of people’s past mistakes. Many serve their sentences and pay their fines trying to move on from young mistakes. However, they are unable to because they have to share their criminal records for job interviews or education facilities.

The Michigan House realized this and therefore fought for their bipartisan expungement reform plan to be approved by the Michigan House. This plan would give “hundreds of thousands of residents with old, low-level criminal convictions the ability to start fresh. It would also shorten the period people must wait before their records can be set aside and establish an automatic expungement system for certain types of offenses”. This provides people a chance to not be haunted by their past. Their past criminal record will not be able to hold them back any further than it already has.

This will also increase public safety as former convicts will be able to obtain better jobs from not having this barrier. It will keep them off the streets and able to provide for themselves and their families, reducing recidivism and crime. Increasing the number of people eligible for jobs will help the job market and companies looking to hire, knowing they have more options. The expansion of the expungement will provide new opportunities to deserving people and work to strengthen and build communities.
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Justice Reform
A highly debated topic in the United States is the laws forbidding convicted individuals, or those with a criminal past, the right to vote in elections. It creates unfair election outcomes as a high percentage of the United States population does not get a say in who is elected. The Sentencing Project stated that 6 million Americans were unable to vote in the 2018 midterms because they had a felony conviction. This is a significant number of voices unheard in America that are most effected by election outcomes. However, some states are hoping to change this. The Guardian posted an article about how Washington D.C. is working on becoming the first state to allow those with felony convictions to vote.

With this new measure in place and being passed by the city council last week, 4,500 people could be affected in Washington D.C.. “I am hopeful that the District’s action will inspire states to recognize the value of universal suffrage and the engagement of all its citizens,” said Nicole Porter, Director of Advocacy at the Sentencing Project, a criminal justice reform group. The United States has some of the strictest voting policies compared to other countries in the world. Some states do have laws that after a certain period of time, convicted individuals are able to vote, but this is not popular in most. Over the years, people have been advocating more to restore voting rights for people released from prison. They deserve a second chance and to have a say in who represents them in the government.

This Washington D.C. measure is unique though, by working on restoring voting rights while the individual is still incarcerated. The District is following in the footsteps of Maine and Vermont, as they are the only two states that allow those convicted of felonies to vote in prison. There is hope that the new law will be approved by the Washington D.C. mayor, Muriel Bowser, to continue to fight for justice reform for those in and out of prison. Many previously convicted felons work hard to turn their lives around post-incarceration and deserve to be able to vote, without their past actions continuing to haunt them.
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Justice Reform

LEVICK is a communication firm that focuses on rebuilding other companies reputations and helping fix the impossible. They recently wrote a blog featuring TRACKtech about what companies can do to embrace #BlackLivesMatter and the ongoing civil rights movements. They focused on Rayshard Brooks story and how he was one of many who fell through the cracks of the prison reentry and probation system. His story, however, has gone viral unlike many others who had devastating and unfortunate outcomes. One detail that is not discussed about Rayshard Brooks’ death is that he should never have been in contact with police the night he died. He was serving probation time, after being incarcerated, and working hard to turn his life around, as he had a job and family to support. He was trying to be better for them and to do the right thing but felt restricted by the criminal justice system.

There is a large lack of guidance and support for individuals who are on parole and probation. Many leave prison with nowhere to go, no income, no job lined up, and no knowledge of how to support themselves. Rayshard Brooks describes these hardships and needing more guidance and mentorship in a video that was recorded just four months before his death. He said he wanted “things to be better, you know, within probation and parole and also monitoring”. The system needs to focus more on looking at people as individuals and structuring support towards their needs, by taking a rehabilitative approach instead of punitive. Those serving parole have paid their debt to society through incarceration and if they are seeking to have a second chance, they should have that opportunity. It should be easier for them to turn their lives around if willing than is possible in the justice system right now.

Rayshard Brooks talked about needing a mentor and having his probation officer there for him more. With officers being overloaded with case loads, it is hard for them to provide attention to all individuals assigned to them. TRACKtech understands this difficulty for parole and probation officers but also for the individual needing more structure and resources to reintegrate back into society. Our products are designed to provide these resources for the individual, such as Rayshard Brooks, through different rehabilitative services and programs. We believe in rehabilitative practices that focus on the individual and speak to their needs. Also, our products give officers more time with each person by being able to remotely check-in with individuals through biometric identification, video conferencing and being able to monitor their compliance through an easy to use dashboard. It is vital that the justice reform system be transformed to help individuals like Rayshard Brooks who struggle reintegrating into society and finding their place again. It should be accessible and rewarding for the hard work they put into their second chance at life.

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Justice Reform

Slowly, more people are supporting the idea that reforms in the community supervision system are feasible and working, according to an article published by The Crime Report. Jessica Jackson, Chief Advocacy Officer at REFORM Alliance, elaborated more on the situation of how COVID-19 has affected and influenced these changing views. The pandemic has led offenders to be able to remotely check-in with probation officers, which allows for more focus and time being spent on rehabilitation. Government resources in the past have been spent on maintaining a parole and probation system that sends more individuals back to jail for technical violations rather than criminal behavior. It is structured to punish the individual instead of rehabilitating and taking a more reformed approach to reducing recidivism. Many individuals have expressed they do not feel supported by their officers and find it already hard readjusting to life outside bars without having to worry about all the technicalities. Arthur Rizer, a former police officer and law professor at George Mason University says community supervision should support individuals released from detention rather than just supervise them.

In order to reduce mass incarceration, something has to change in the support and rehabilitation resources offered to individuals in the community supervision division. TRACKtech, LLC is working to bridge this gap between individuals not feeling supported and provided enough resources to stay out of jail. With the TRACKphone, officers are able to remotely check-in with individuals via bio-metric identification and video conferencing. This allows for them to monitor an individual’s location and make sure they are compliant. Individuals also have access to a wide variety of rehabilitative resources and calendar reminders for job interviews and appointments. This helps them better integrate back into society and provide them with some stability to reduce recidivism rates.

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Jail Overcrowding, Justice Reform

Recently, a coalition of criminal justice reform groups have come out with a list of recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Slowly, inmates and prison employees are beginning to test positive for the fast spreading coronavirus. Because of this the reform groups have created a plan referred to as “SAFER”. They are fighting to suspend jail time for technical violations and suspend probation office visits and payments of fines. They are encouraging the adoption of smart alternatives to incarceration. And they are pushing to provide free medical visits and treatment, hand sanitizer, soap, and protective gear to help prevent the spread. Extra precautions for guards and staff are being initiated and the release of the elderly and vulnerable to home confinement is being advocated for. 

 

“People in prisons, jails, or under community supervision are more at risk of contracting and spreading the virus, given their age, underlying health conditions, and close contact to each other”, says Jessica Jackson, Chief Advocacy Officer at REFORM Alliance. Protecting inmate populations is just as vital to stopping the spread of coronavirus and keeping communities safe. REFORM Alliance created “SAFER” in the hopes of helping to do this as it was developed in consultation with medical and justice system experts. COVID-19 is continuing to spread quickly and it is in the best interest of communities to not allow prisons and jails to become hot spots for the virus. 

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Justice Reform

A recently published article poses the question, “Could limiting the number of cases a parole officer handles improve the criminal justice system?  ” The Senate Judiciary B Committee has already passed a piece of legislation, which would limit the number of cases that parole officers are able to take on.” Many parole officers are overworked and in charge of too many cases. For each case, the parole officers must keep track of the whereabouts of their parolees, make sure they are not violating any location restrictions, and ensure they are attending mandatory appointments and meetings. 

However, many states do not limit the number of cases a parole officer can be assigned. The new legislation would not allow for them to have over 100 cases. This would help ease the frustration parole officers feel trying to keep up with their cases and being overworked. Many parole officers want to help rehabilitate people but cannot help to their fullest capacity due to being overwhelmed. Limiting the number of cases will help with this issue, allowing parole officers to focus on getting people re situated in society and improve criminal justice reform.

TRACKtech, LLC is working to reduce stress on parole officers by offering a platform for them to easily manage and help their program members. We are working smarter, using technology to make the jobs of parole officers easier and more manageable. Our platform offers geofencing, so officers are immediately alerted if members are in restricted territory. Officers can also set automatic check-ins to ensure their program members are where they are supposed to be, whether that is in therapy or at job interviews. These check-ins use biometric identification, reassuring officers that it is the program member with the device. Finally, our platform offers video conferencing allowing remote meetings and calendaring/reminders so no appointment is forgotten. TRACKtech enables case workers to monitor all their program members efficiently and in a timely fashion, which allows them to focus more heavily on those that are not compliant without neglecting others. 

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Justice Reform

Criminal justice reform initiatives are aimed at fighting to reduce mass incarceration and the suffering incarceration has on populations. An article published by Forbes talks about improving the lives of millions and saving money by investing in criminal justice reform. According to the article, 6% of GDP ($1.2 trillion) goes to the direct cost of incarceration. They focus on bringing attention to the sustainable movements that hopefully will lower this number. 

There are many different parties involved with prisons and the care of prisons. Forbes brought attention to the statistics that roughly 4,000 companies profit off of incarceration, whether that be through investments or initiatives through the prison systems. Many companies profit off of bails and incarceration or post-incarceration fees. Some Fortune 500 companies have even been known to make a profit off prison labor, opposed to the inmates. As this helps these companies, it is detrimental to prisoners and the prison system in general. Money is being taken out of the prison system to pay companies. 

Another dilemma faced is prison exclusion versus engagement. Strategic engagement with publicly traded companies includes anything from meetings to shareholder investments. Private prison operators usually hold the responsibility of working with companies like this to make a profit or provide services to stand out. All of these are based on social factors, that in the end if improving the criminal justice system were to prevail, would result in major societal benefits. The prisoners and former prisoners would be able to have more rewarding lives and the government would save billions that goes towards incarceration.

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