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Goodbye Tent City; Philly’s Newspaper Makes A Crazy Endorsement; Oops — ICE’s Manual Tells Too Much … and more

Goodbye Tent City; Philly’s Newspaper Makes A Crazy Endorsement; Oops — ICE’s Manual Tells Too Much … and more

Note: This first appeared in our daily In Justice Today newsletter. To get stories like these in your inbox every day, you can sign up here.

In today’s news roundup, we bring you stories about a turn away from punitive practices in the jails formerly run by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a look at campaign contributions to Brooklyn’s next DA, an ICE asset forfeiture handbook that gets a little too honest about the agency’s fundraising priorities, a growing recognition of the role of childhood trauma in the commission of adult offenses, and many others.


  • Injustice Roundup: Shaun King’s Weekly Roundup of Stories on Abusive Police Officers, Prison Guards, and Prosecutors. This past week, Shaun King highlights Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator, who complained about the impending release of prisoners and how he “hates seeing good men let go because they are the ones that ‘can pick up trash,’ ‘wash cars,’ ‘change oil in our cars,’ and ‘cook in the kitchen.’” To King, Prator’s comments show “how our current systems of mass incarceration are slavery by another name.” Also, in Orange County, California, Deputy District Attorney Sandra Lee Nassar deliberately withheld evidence from the defense. She also said she would “do it” again. King also highlighted the continued controversy over Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s and the appearance of a play to pay scandal in his office, the fact that Salt Lake City District Attorney Sim Gill decided that the fatal police shooting of Patrick Harmon in his back was “just fine,” and how several NYPD officers currently stand accused of rape and child prostitution. [Shaun King / In Justice Today]



Gym also challenged the editorial’s narrative that more incarceration equates with more concern for victims:

A reporter on staff with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Mike Newall, also replied to the editorial, stating: “I disagree. We need[] safe injection sites now & Krasner is only candidate who has come out in full-throated support.”


Bail Reform

  • A county in North Carolina wants to give its bail system a serious makeover. Mecklenburg County, the largest county in North Carolina, just received a $2 million grant to reduce its jail population. One solution on the table is to advance a bail system based on risk assessment rather than a person’s ability to pay for their pretrial release. The county has slowly implemented a risk assessment tool over the past few years, but many defendants are still behind bars because they are too poor to make bail. There are also concerns about risk assessment tools within the criminal justice community. Critics say the tools can be racially-biased and reductive. [Carimah Townes / In Justice Today]

Asset Forfeiture

  • Leaked ICE Guide Offers Unprecedented View of Agency’s Asset Forfeiture Tactics. The Intercept obtained a manual used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to guide agents on when to seize assets belonging to individuals who may be under investigation. The manual advises agents to weigh the cost of seizure against the value of the property (and hence the financial benefit to ICE), and to refrain from taking assets when it does not make sense financially to do so. This squares with accusations that civil forfeiture is used primarily to generate revenue rather than to serve a particular law enforcement purpose. The manual does indicate that there are times when law enforcement priorities should trump profitability considerations, but the fact that this has to be specified — and indeed as a special case — does little to rehabilitate the image of a practice that has come under intense scrutiny in the past year, including a vote by the House of Representatives last month to limit its use. [Ryan Devereaux and Spencer Woodman / The Intercept]

Trauma and Crime

  • A Gun to His Head as a Child. In Prison as an Adult. Rob Sullivan grew up watching his father beat his mother, and both parents were often drunk by the time he got home from school. Sullivan himself started drinking before reaching his teens. His mother and a cousin who was like a sister to him both died of heroin overdoses, and he himself eventually began to use heroin. One could hardly disagree with his characterization of his childhood as “chaotic.” Sullivan has been in and out of various kinds of incarceration or rehabilitation facilities since his early teens, and a growing body of research is helping to show how his substance use and criminal offending stem from his childhood trauma. Sullivan scored a 9 out of 10 on a questionnaire meant to determine the severity of childhood trauma. Even a score of 4 would have shown him to be at a “substantially elevated risk of chronic disease, depression, suicide attempts, substance abuse and violence.” Recent research has shed more light on the extent to which childhood trauma changes the brain in ways that persist into adulthood, leading to problems with impulse control, decision making, and executive function. However, this is not to say that traumatized youth are doomed. Developments in the understanding of the brain’s ability to forge new connections even well into adulthood provides some hope. However, it is incumbent on justice system actors to take this research into account and develop methods of dealing with trauma that ameliorate rather than exacerbate its lasting effects. [Audra S.D. Burch / New York Times]

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