Democrats and Republicans on Criminal Justice Policy, CA Corrections Spending Vs. Higher Education…and MoreSeptember 7th, 2012 by Taylor Walker
THE REPUBLICAN AND DEMOCRATIC COMPARISON ON CRIMINAL JUSTICE POLICY
While the Democratic and Republican parties have an especially large divide on most issues this election year, there are heartening parallels in the realm of criminal justice policy. With both conventions at an end, the Sentencing Project has released a report including a side-by-side comparison of what both parties have to say. Here’s a clip from their report:
Though the United States remains the world’s leader in incarceration — with 2.2 million people currently in the nation’s prisons or jails — and maintains harsh penalties with intolerable racial disparities, the recently approved Democratic and Republican party platforms indicate ways to make progress on criminal justice reform while increasing public safety. In a number of areas, from reducing recidivism, to enhancing reentry program and drug treatment alternatives to incarceration, the two major parties have taken positions that offer hope for bipartisan reform. Though there is much more progress to be made, we welcome this opportunity to compare each party’s position on criminal justice policy. We hope this memo is helpful for voters and policymakers alike as we forge a path to bipartisan criminal justice reform.
PRISON SPENDING SOARS AS HIGHER EDUCATION CONTINUES ITS STEADY DECLINE
According to a new report by California Common Sense, CA spends about 1,370% more on prisons now than was spent in 1980 due to a soaring inmate population and prison guard salary hikes. In contrast to the steady growth of the prison budget, spending on higher education has dropped consistently over the last 30 years. If the Democratic and Republican parties don’t get their respective acts together to repair our criminal justice system, we will continue to see the prison budget eat away at the education budget.
NBC’s Stephanie Chuang has the story. Here’s a clip:
It’s the first time a group has looked at 30 years worth of data and crunched the numbers to show a long-term trend between state spending on prisons and on higher education, according to Director of Research Mike Polyakov.
California spent $592 million on corrections in 1980, Polyakov said. That spending has jumped to $9.2 billion in 2011.
Meanwhile, higher education spending has decreased. Researchers found that there is a trend to pay University of California and California State University faculty less money than in the past.
“What we found is faculty salaries have decreased about 10 percent since 1990,” Polyakov said.
At the same time, Polyakov said prison guard salaries reached a record high in 2006.
“The average salary we calculated was somewhere in area of $100,000,” he said. “Today, it’s closer to $75,000.”
So even though the officers’ pay has come down in the last few years, CACS researchers found that correctional officers are still making anywhere from 50 to 90 percent above market rate compared to the rest of the country.
Here’s a clip of some of the report‘s key points:
Corrections’ growing slice of the State budget, High Education’s shrinking slice. As CDCR’s share of the State General Fund budget increased steadily through most of the last three decades, higher education’s share declined consistently.
Corrections inmate population explosion driving higher costs. Over the last 30 years, the number of people California incarcerates grew more than eight times faster than the general population. Our calculations show that 55% of the increase in the cost of the state prison system between 1980 and 2012 (after adjusting for inflation) can be traced to this rapid growth.
COMMON ERRORS THAT PAVE THE ROAD TO WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS
The second story in an ongoing series by crime author Sue Russell exploring the hows, whys, and solutions to the issue of wrongful convictions takes a look at investigators’ use of misleading specialized knowledge to coerce a confession. (You can find our post about the first story in Sue’s series here.) Here’s a clip:
… ‘Contamination,’ takes place when investigators feed a suspect ‘misleading specialized knowledge’: non-public details of a crime. Later, for a suspect or defendant to merely possess such “insider” information can be misread as highly incriminating.
Presuming the innocent guilty, says Drizin, often stems from flawed interrogation training. Much of law enforcement personnel’s training convinces them that they are tantamount to human lie detectors (see more on this in this series’ next installment) with superior abilities to “read” guilt or innocence from a suspect’s emotional affect or body language. Deception research by social scientists like Bella DePaulo, however, show otherwise.
If detectives lock in on a suspect too early, cautions Itiel Dror of the University College of London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, tunnel vision kicks in along with “escalation of commitment” to their conclusions. And through confirmation bias, the brain seeks facts that confirm existing beliefs while it discounts or disregards information that conflicts.
Meanwhile, many errors in an investigation are effectively buried before a case goes to trial, says Drizin [co-founder of Northwestern University of Law's Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth]. They’re simply invisible to the types and level of scrutiny a case typically receives as it works its way through the system.
“Trial prosecutors,” he says, “who are often different than the ones who screen the cases, believe that somebody would not be innocent if they had gotten this far in the system.”
And once a suspect falsely confesses after a coercive interrogation, they’re in deep because post-confession any presumption of innocence simply dies.
When studying DNA exonerations involving false confessions, University of Virginia School of Law professor Brandon L. Garrett, author of Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong, looked at 32 cases that went to trial and found that ‘misleading specialized knowledge’ was used to help convict innocents in 31 cases.
CEREMONIAL BELLS TOLL FOR FALLEN CHP OFFICER KENYON YOUNGSTROM
CHP Officer Kenyon Youngstrom died Wednesday evening following a Tuesday shootout during a routine traffic stop. It is a painful reminder that law officers risk their lives daily to protect and serve the rest of us.
San Jose Mercury’s Catherine Bowen details the bell-ringing ceremony held for the fallen CHP officer. Here’s a clip:
As part of the statewide flood of support for slain California Highway Patrol Officer Kenyon Youngstrom, hundreds of law enforcement officers gathered Thursday in West Sacramento for a bell-ringing ceremony to honor their fallen brother.
Youngstrom died at 6:05 p.m. Wednesday after being taken off life support at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, where he had been listed in critical condition following a Tuesday morning shooting on Interstate 680 in Alamo, according to CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow.
Flanked by hundreds of uniformed CHP officers, cadets and other employees, Youngstrom’s wife, parents and children looked on at the CHP Academy as his name was read and the knelling of a memorial bell rang out across the quad.
The 5 p.m. ceremony was part of a tradition that began several years ago in which the bell is tolled at the end of the first business day after an officer is killed in the line of duty, and is a way for employees to honor the officer’s sacrifice and pay their respects, said Fran Clader, CHP director of communications.