criminal justice reforms

The Marshall Project: A Lull in Executions

A few weeks ago we told the story of Vernon Madison and his long-winding journey on death row in Alabama. While his execution has been stayed momentarily, the United States finds itself in an interesting lull. As of yesterday, according to the Marshall Project, we’re in the middle of one of the longest gaps between executions in the past quarter century.

 

recents

SOURCE: Tom Meagher, “It’s Been Almost Two Months Since the U.S. Executed Someone,” June 30, 2016. The Marshall Project/The Next to Die

According to journalist Tom Meagher, the next set of executions are slated for July 14 — one in Texas and another in Georgia. Missouri conducted the most recent execution back on May 11 when the state killed Earl Forrest by lethal injection. That break in time will constitute a gap of 64 days. That’s a fairly long stoppage considering that executions had been happening at a pace of around two a month since the start of the year.

Private Prisons are Expensive, Dangerous and Bad Public Policy. We Should Abolish Them.

A recent undercover investigation by online news site Mother Jones uncovered horrific conditions at a private prison facility located in Winnfield, Louisiana. Over the course of four months, journalist Shane Bauer posed as a correctional officer at the Winn Correctional Facility and saw firsthand how an overcrowded and understaffed correctional facility coped with stabbings, mental illness, and constant stress.

It’s an amazingly extensive piece of reporting. Bauer was able to record audio and video footage inside the prison and filed nightly video reports sharing his thoughts and feelings from the day. Between his written article, a podcast episode and a video series pulled together by Mother Jones (see below) you get a wide glimpse into the world of private prisons and their deadly shortcomings.

Bauer’s investigation is simply another confirmation of what criminal justice reform advocates have been saying for some time. The benefits private prisons often claim when vying for state contracts are near non-existent: (more…)

Vernon Madison and the Death Penalty

On April 18, 1985 Mobile County Police Officer Julian Schulte responded to a report of a missing child. Upon arriving at the home of Cheryl Ann Green, Schulte was informed that there had been a miscommunication — the child was not missing and was on her way home thanks to a family friend. While Schulte waited in his police car for a second unit to arrive at the home, an argument broke out between Ms. Green and her then-boyfriend Vernon Madison. Schulte intervened, requesting that Madison calm down and leave the residence. Madison left briefly, but returned shortly after with a gun and shot Officer Julian Schulte twice through the driver side window of his unmarked police vehicle. A week later, Corporal Julian Schulte — by all accounts a good officer and better person — was pronounced dead.

Two weeks ago on Thursday, May 12. Vernon Madison was supposed to die.

If someone were to make an argument against the death penalty, Vernon Madison may indeed be the poster child. Not because there’s ambiguity in the crime — he most certainly murdered Officer Julian Schulte — but because Madison’s story highlights so many of the flaws which come along with state-sanctioned executions.   (more…)

Mass-Incarceration and the Clinton Golden Years

Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has said that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, would play a major role in helping to revitalize the economy in a Hillary Clinton administration.

Bill’s economic performance during his tenure as President is held to almost mythical levels in certain circles and much of his current popularity stems from how people remember the economy under his watch. However, as Hillary wraps up the Democratic nomination, it’s important to call into question just how great the late 1990s were — especially for African-Americans.   (more…)

Drug Arrests and Mass Black Incarceration

It’s estimated today that roughly one out of every three black men will be imprisoned in either a state or federal correctional facility in their lifetimes. This is a shocking number not only because of its absolute disproportionality — white men will face prison time at a rate one-eighth that of black men — but also because black imprisonment has grown nearly unabated during a time when arrests for violent crimes have fallen overall.

Jonathan Rockwell, a Fellow at the Brookings Institute, recently reported data showing that arrests for Back Americans were declining in key categories of crime. Specifically, over the past thirty years, annual arrests for property crimes (think burglary and various types of theft) have fallen by more than 70,000 while arrests for violent crimes (think rape and murder) have fallen by roughly 2,600. And yet, as mentioned earlier, incarceration now more than ever has become a standard life event for too many blacks — especially black men with low rates of education.

The cause of these diverging trends stems in large part from the war on drugs. Over the same time period that arrests for property and violent crimes have gone down, non-violent drug related arrests have boomed with nearly 1 million more arrests occurring in 2011 than in 1980 for crimes related to drug abuse and paraphernalia possession. Click for graph. (more…)