Mass Incarceration

  • November 12, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    Meredith Rodriquez reports in the Chicago Tribune that Judge Abner Mikva, the former Illinois congressman and member of the ACS Board of Advisors, is to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom this month.

    In The Atlantic, Stephen Lurie asserts that the best way to fix mass incarceration is for President Obama to take more active role.

    David H. Gans of the Constitutional Accountability Center continues its series on Chief Justice John Roberts with a look at campaign finance and voting rights.

    At the New Republic, Brian Beutler explains why the Supreme Court’s decision to hear another challenge to the Affordable Care Act should  not worry supporters.

  • October 7, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    Though the United States celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act this year, the criminal justice system remains a significant stumbling block on the path to racial equality. Nicole Austin-Hillery, the Director and Counsel of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Washington, D.C. office, explained that “we are still a country that has a lot of hidden fears based on race.” And it’s these fears that have contributed to the quadrupling of the prison population since the 1970s, policies that make reentry more difficult for prisoners, and police practices that disproportionately target people of color.

    In an interview conducted earlier this year, Austin-Hillery offered her views on the path towards eliminating racial profiling and bias in the U.S. criminal justice system. Her work with the Brennan Center often focuses on voting rights as well as racial and criminal justice reform, and experience makes her well-aware of the challenges on the road to reform.  As she discussed in the interview, changing demographics are creating a greater need to educate Americans about racial justice issues and reevaluate programs put in place after the September 11 attacks.

  • August 6, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Nicole Austin-Hillery, Director and Counsel of Washington, D.C. Office, The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law 

    *This post originally appeared on The Brennan Center’s blog

    Congress went home last week without tackling several critical issues facing our country. This is common in an election year. But this year should have been different. For the first time in nearly five decades, Americans will go to the polls in November without a key protection under the Voting Rights Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court gutted last year in Shelby County v. Holder. When Congress comes back in September, leaders of both parties must act to ensure every citizen can freely cast a ballot.

    Today, on the 49th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act, it’s worth looking back at how far our nation has come on voting discrimination and race, and how we can move forward together to ensure equality and justice for all.

    The America we knew in 1965 was vastly different than the one we know now. The civil rights struggle showed our country through a black and white prism. President Lyndon Baines Johnson spoke of this race divide when he signed the VRA, which made it illegal for states to discriminate based on race in voting.

    “The stories of our Nation and of the American Negro are like two great rivers,” he said, “flow[ing] through the centuries along divided channels.” Only after the Civil War, Johnson remarked, did the two rivers begin “to move toward one another.” And a century later, the VRA would allow the two currents to “finally mingle and rush as one great stream across the uncertain and the marvelous years of the America that is yet to come.”

  • July 24, 2014

    by Ellery Weil

    At The Week, Andrew Cohen discusses Wednesday’s botched execution of Arizona inmate Joseph Wood, a “state-sponsored, judicially sanctioned human experiment that went terribly wrong.” For more on botched executions, ACS held a call this past May featuring Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick and Megan McCracken, Eighth Amendment Resource Counsel with the U.C. Berkeley School of Law's Death Penalty Clinic, to discuss the execution of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett.

    Matt Ford of the Atlantic discusses the mass incarceration crisis, and its broader effects on the nation.

    Dominic Perella speculates on the probability that this week’s decisions in Halbig and King will result in the Affordable Care Act going back before the Supreme Court on msnbc.

    Writing for The Washington Post, Daniel Hertz explains the legacy of Milliken v. Bradley, and how 40 years later, its legacy continues to haunt our school systems.

  • May 7, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Vincent Southerland, Criminal Justice Practice, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund

    America is finally starting to take its first small steps on the path to curing its decades-long addiction to mass incarceration. Recently, the nation’s top law enforcement officer, Attorney General Eric Holder, testified before the United States Sentencing Commission and called for reductions to federal sentences for certain drug offenses. In doing so, Attorney General Holder declared that “over-reliance on incarceration is not just financially unsustainable, it comes with human and moral costs that are impossible to calculate,” a statement many of us—who for years have been raising the alarm bell about America’s mass incarceration problem—have long known to be true.

    Attorney General Holder’s comments strike at the heart of the problem: mass incarceration has devastated African-American communities, families, and lives all around the country. Sustained changes to the policies and attitudes that created this epidemic, however, are the real key. In order for that change to happen, our nation’s moral orientation with mass incarceration and criminal justice will have to adjust accordingly.

    At bottom, criminal justice reforms need to be driven by the moral imperative of repairing all that is wrong with the current system. As advocates for change, we must make sure that the reform narrative includes the human costs of mass incarceration and a broken criminal justice system, not just the concern over dollars and cents. The Moral Monday movement—a multi-issue, grassroots, multiracial campaign active in the courtroom, streets, and the ballot box—offers a salient example of how ethics and the lived experiences of real people can drive change and incite action. The movement shifted North Carolina’s political discourse toward morality while focusing on individual stories and the damage done to real people by real, and unjust, policies.