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Closing the "Gap" Between Competency and Commitment in Minnesota: Ideas from National Standards and Practices in Other States

January 9, 2018

In Minnesota, a "gap" exists in the justice system for defendants with mental illness. Defendants in criminal cases are found incompetent to stand trial, yet do not meet the higher standard for civil commitment. Commitment is the only way to receive competency restoration treatment, so individuals who do not meet the standard are unable to resolve their criminal cases or to receive treatment. The Robina Institute conducted research see how other states address incompetency.

The Next 100 Questions: A Research Agenda For Ending Gun Violence

January 11, 2021

This report outlines key areas of focus for public and private sector efforts to build the science of gun violence prevention with actionable findings for policy makers and practitioners over the next five years. The report was written in collaboration with an advisory panel of scientific experts and includes input from dozens of researchers in the field.Against the backdrop of a national surge of gun violence and gun purchasing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the report arrives at a moment of optimism for gun violence research efforts. Congress recently renewed $25 million in funding for those efforts, and the incoming federal administration has committed to comprehensively addressing gun violence as a public health epidemic.The renewed federal funding into gun violence research is a good start, but there is much more to learn about reducing gun deaths and injuries in the U.S. The report identifies key questions in 10 dimensions of gun violence:1) Firearm suicide 2) Community-based gun violence 3) Intimate partner violence 4) Shootings by law enforcement 5) Mass shootings 6) Unintentional shootings 7) Impacts of lawful gun ownership 8) Gun access during high-risk periods 9) Racial disparities and the criminal justice system 10) Firearm-related technology.

Bail Reform 2020

February 21, 2020

In 2019, New York enacted historic pretrial reforms that will result in a dramatic reduction in pretrial detention populations across the state by eliminating bail and pretrial detention for most misdemeanors and non-violentfelonies. That means, in most cases, a person's liberty will not depend on how much money they have.

Bail's Set What's Next?

January 6, 2020

Money bail continues to divide New York States' criminal legal system into two tiers: one for those who can pay, and one for those who can't. Unfortunately, this means if you can't afford to pay bail, you go to jail.

Eyes on 2020: New York Bail Reform Accountability and Implementation

December 19, 2019

Ahead of new statewide bail reform legislation taking effect on January 1, 2020, this publication from our collaborative prosecutorial accountability project, Court Watch NYC, highlights the importance of the reforms and the work left to be done, provides examples from court illustrating how prosecutors are already attempting to subvert the law, and why we'll be watching to hold them accountable in the new year.

Paying for Jail: How County Jails Extract Wealth from New York Communities

December 18, 2019

In partnership with Worth Rises, this report provides data to expose the scale of three direct costs levied against families of people incarcerated in New York's jails: phone calls, commissary, and disciplinary tickets.

Bail Reform in New York: The Facts

December 12, 2019

Fact sheet about bail reform in New York, including how the law will affect New Yorkers, as well as the hard data illustrating the personal, economic and systemic impact of money bail and pretrial jailing on individuals, families and communities.

Restoring Local Control of Parole to the District of Columbia

December 1, 2019

The Justice Policy Institute is pleased to share our newest report, Restoring Local Control of Parole to the District of Columbia.In January 2019, the District of Columbia government enlisted the Justice Policy Institute to explore the feasibility of restoring local control of parole and make recommendations for how release decision making can be transferred from the federal government to DC government. Transferring supervision responsibilities and parole decision-making from the federal government back to the District is an ambitious, complicated undertaking. Fortunately, local leadership can draw on a wealth of data, evidence, and experience from other jurisdictions as they evaluate how best to move forward.This new report highlights the best available research and practice in the parole field, provides 22 recommendations for parole decision-making and supervision, and outlines three options for restoring local control of release decision-making. JPI undertook a series of activities to produce this report. These included:Interviewing District and federal officials to understand how the current system functions and how best to build upon its strengths.Speaking with attorneys who handle parole applications to the United States Parole Commission.Attending community speak-out events and local criminal justice coalition meetings to solicit input from a wide range of community and system stakeholders, including currently and formerly incarcerated people with experience in the District's parole system.Consulting with experts from multiple organizations that provide technical assistance to help states improve their parole practice, including attending the 2019 Association of Paroling Authorities International Chairs Meeting and Annual Training Conference in Baltimore, Maryland.Examining a broad array of research in academic peer-reviewed journals, technical white papers, and state agency reports.The recommendations outlined in this report should guide the development and staffing of a new parole board, the criteria for release decision-making, and how individuals are supervised in the community. If the District follows this plan, we believe it has the opportunity to serve as a model jurisdiction for other states. We also hope the report can be useful for jurisdictions currently considering reforms to their parole systems.  

Bail Bond Industry Compliance: An Examination of Commercial Bail Bond Consumer Protection Practices in New York City

November 13, 2019

As a follow up to our 2017 report "License & Registration Please," this report documents commercial bail bond company compliance with recently passed New York City and existing New York State laws meant to increase oversight of the predatory commercial bail bond industry.

Rethinking Approaches to Over Incarceration of Black Young Adults in Maryland

November 5, 2019

Maryland leads the nation in incarcerating young Black men, sentenced to the longest prison terms, at a rate 25% higher than the next nearest state — Mississippi.  State has incarcerated the highest percentage of people who are Black in the country, more than twice the national average.Punitive sentencing policies and restrictive parole release practices in Maryland have resulted in a deeply racially disproportionate criminal justice system that is acutely impacting those serving the longest prison terms. This is true despite a declining prison population and state leadership in Maryland having undertaken criminal justice reform in recent years. As recently as July 2018, more than 70 percent of Maryland's prison population was black, compared to 31 percent of the state population. The latest data from the Department of Justice show that the proportion of the Maryland prison population that is black is more than double the national average of 32 percent. These disparities are rooted in decades of unbalanced policies that disproportionately over-police under-resourced communities of color, and a criminal justice system focused on punitive sentencing and parole practices.Disparity Most Pronounced Among Emerging Adults, Especially Those with Long SentencesRacial disparities persist despite the fact that the Maryland prison population has declined by 13 percent since 2014, resulting in nearly 2,700 fewer people incarcerated. These inequalities affect the entire population, but are most pronounced among those individuals who were incarcerated as emerging adults (18 to 24 years old) and are serving long prison terms. Nearly eight in 10 people who were sentenced as emerging adults and have served 10 or more years in a Maryland prison are black. This is the highest rate of any state in the country.To be Effective, Solutions Must Focus on the Emerging Adult PopulationTo reverse these racially disparate outcomes—the result of decades of failed policies—Maryland needs to rethink its approach to 18- to 24-year-olds and join a growing number of jurisdictions exploring reforms related to emerging adults. This policy brief will provide perspective on why this population is unique and reforms are critical to improving outcomes in the justice system. Going forward, Maryland's leadership can look toward examples of successful, evidence-based, and promising alternatives in other jurisdictions that can reduce the impact on emerging adults, racial disparities, and criminal justice involvement.What do we mean by "emerging adults"? The United States justice system is divided into two separate entities: the adult criminal justice system and the juvenile justice system. With the creation of the juvenile court in 1899, the vast majority of youth under the age of 18 are served in the juvenile system. But the choice of 18 as the cutoff age is arbitrary and subject to specific state statutes. For example, in four states, 17-year-olds are automatically prosecuted and sentenced as an adult. However, most states have chosen 18 as the age of adulthood. Some states, such as New York and North Carolina, have recently taken steps to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 16 to 18 years old.The reason this age threshold matters is because the juvenile justice system's underlying philosophy differs radically from that of the adult system. The juvenile justice system was explicitly developed as an alternative to the adult system, which is primarily focused on punishment. The juvenile system is based on an understanding that children have a less developed sense of right and wrong, reduced impulse control, and, as such, a different level of culpability for their actions. The juvenile system is not focused on absolving children of responsibility for their actions. However, it offers education, personal development, and rehabilitation rather than punishment.

Levers of Change in Parole Release and Revocation

May 15, 2019

Paroling authorities play an important, if often unrecognized role, in American prison policies. Discretionary parole processes decide the actual release dates for most individuals subject to confinement in 34 states. Additional leverage over time served is exercised through parole boards' revocation and re-release authority. The degree of discretion these back-end officials exert over the dosage of incarceration is vast, sometimes more than that held by sentencing courts.Any comprehensive program to change American prison policy must focus to a significant degree on prison-release discretion, where it exists, and its relationship to time served. During the buildup to mass incarceration, many parole boards became increasingly reluctant to grant release to eligible prisoners. Today, if it were possible to reverse this upward driver of prison populations, parole boards could be important contributors to a new evidence-based status quo of lower prison rates in many states. Reasonable objectives of reform include policy-driven increases in the likelihood of parole release, and more rational decision making overall about time served.This report describes twelve "levers of change," each associated with potential reforms in the realm of discretionary parole release. The reforms are called "change levers" because, once a lever is pulled, it is designed to impact prison populations by altering parole grant rates and durations of time served. The report identifies 12 areas of innovation that, to some degree, have already been tried by a number of states. In most cases, from a distance, it is impossible to evaluate the quality of each state's implementation of one or more change levers, or the results that have been achieved. But the fact that states have begun to experiment in specific areas shows that there is an appetite for reform. In addition, actual experimentation indicates that some of the groundwork has been laid for evaluation, improvement, and dissemination of promising ideas to many additional states.Some levers have become embedded in the decision protocols of parole boards over the past 20 years and more, while others have emerged only recently. One of the goals of this report is to demonstrate how combining the levers is key to reform. This report maps the terrain of the 12 identified change levers, to the degree permitted by available information. The map shows a huge amount of state-by-state variation, even without hands-on study of each system. The report further classifies individual levers based on the number of jurisdictions in which they have been identified, and their potential impact on states' prison populations.

The Courthouse Trap: How ICE Operations Impacted New York’s Courts in 2018

January 29, 2019

The Immigrant Defense Project closely monitors ICE activity at state courthouses in New York and around the country. Under the Trump administration, we have documented an alarming 1700% increase in ICE arrests and attempted arrests across New York State. The consequent threats to universal access to justice and to public safety are tremendous, as immigrant communities become too afraid to seek justice in criminal, family, and civil courts.

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