MEET THE “LAW ENFORCEMENT LEADERS TO REDUCE CRIME AND INCARCERATION”
A group of 130 police chiefs, sheriffs, and prosecutors from all over the country are calling for policy reforms to lower incarceration rates and improve public safety.
Members of the Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration include LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, NYC Police Commissioner (and former LAPD Chief) William Bratton, SF District Attorney George Gascon, Richmond (CA) Chief Chris Magnus, Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen, and SF Police Chief Greg Suhr.
A project of the Brennan Center for Justice, the Law Enforcement Leaders group aims to boost incarceration alternatives (particularly through mental health and substance abuse diversion), reclassify non-serious felonies as misdemeanors in the spirit of California’s Prop 47, getting rid of unnecessarily harsh mandatory minimums, and improving police-community relations.
As leaders of the law enforcement community, we are committed to building a smarter, stronger, and fairer criminal justice system. We do not want to see families and communities wrecked by our current system,” said Ronal Serpas, former Supt. of the New Orleans Police Dept. and co-chair of the group. “Forming this new organization will allow us to engage policymakers and support changes to federal and state laws, as well as practices, to end unnecessary incarceration.”
“I’ve been through the war on drugs, the war on gangs,” LAPD Chief Beck said at a Washington DC press conference. “What I’ve learned in the past 40 years is that police departments cannot be at war with the communities they serve.”
“We’re incarcerating the wrong people, and we’re measuring the wrong things,? added Chicago Supt. of Police Garry McCarthy. “The criminal justice system is not really broken. It’s producing the results it was designed to produce. And those are the wrong results.”
THE FCC’S UPCOMING PRISON PHONE RULES AND THE IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY CONTACT FOR SUCCESSFUL REENTRY
Less than one-third of state inmates receive visits from loved ones in a month, according to an analysis of government data by the Prison Policy Initiative. Research shows that contact with family is extremely important for a former offender’s successful reentry into their community, yet many families simply cannot afford to visit loved ones locked up far from home. The report recommends states implement free transportation to distant prisons to give families a better chance at in-person visits.
Most locked-up parents with minor children do not even get to see them while incarcerated. The report says states should ask inmates and their families how they can make family connection easier.
Not surprisingly, phone calls are far more frequent than visits: around 70% of state inmates talk on the phone with loved ones in a typical month. But high-ticket phone calls can be a huge financial burden for families, too.
The Federal Communications Commission will vote today on recommendations from (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn to put caps on the exorbitant fees contracted phone companies (like Global Tel-Link) charge inmates’ families. If approved, the changes would reduce costs (which can add up to hundreds of dollars per month) to far more reasonable rates—$.11 per minute for state and federal prison calls and $.14-.20 per minute for phone calls from county jails.
To best support inmates and their families, Prison Policy Initiative urges corrections officials to fully comply with the FCC’s reforms, eliminate the use of video visits as replacement for in-person visits, create family-oriented spaces for locked-up parents to bond with their children, and only lock people up as a last resort when community supervision is not an option.
MENTALLY ILL INMATES FOUND UNFIT TO STAND TRIAL WAIT MONTHS FOR PSYCH BEDS TO OPEN UP, BUT MAYBE THEY COULD BE BETTER SERVED IN THE COMMUNITY
In CA, hundreds of mentally ill inmates declared incompetent to stand trial languish in jails waiting for beds to open up at the five state hospitals who can admit them. (When defendants are deemed unfit to stand trial, they are supposed to be sent to a mental hospital for treatment until they can understand the charges against them.)
CA’s latest budget allocates over $17 million for adding new psychiatric beds for people whose mental conditions prohibit them from continuing the legal process.
And while jail is certainly not the best place for most mentally ill defendants, according to Stephen Manley, a Santa Clara mental health court judge, funding more hospital beds may not be the ideal solution either. Too many people are put in hospitals who are not a risk to themselves or the public and would be better served by a community program, says Manley.
KQED’s Scott Shafer has more on the issue. Here’s a clip:
Stephen Manley is a mental health court judge in Santa Clara County. His court helps defendants struggling with severe mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, find alternatives to incarceration.
Manley doesn’t want more psychiatric hospital beds; he wants to reserve state hospitals for the most violent defendants.
“We send far too many people to state hospitals who do not pose a risk to public safety,” he says. “Because we don’t work with them to figure out if there isn’t a local alternative.”
Manley believes the psychiatric hospitals are already overcrowded — and understaffed. “As long as we keep overcrowding the hospitals, all we do is feed the fire,” he says, referring to violence within the hospitals.
There were more than 1,800 physical assaults at Napa State Hospital last year alone. Hospital officials say patients who are there to have their sanity restored for trial inflict the most serious injuries.