Seek Justice

By Erik Rasmussen and Dennis Schrantz

Listen to a podcast, please open Podcast Republic app. Available on Google Play Store.


Category: News & Politics

Open in iTunes


Open RSS feed


Open Website


Rate for this podcast

Subscribers: 0
Reviews: 0

Description

A weekly deep dive into Criminal Justice with Erik Rasmussen and Dennis Schrantz

Episode Date
Ep. 22 - Joe Biden's Criminal Justice Reform Promises
00:00
Oct 02, 2019
Ep. 20 - Elizabeth Warren's Criminal Justice Reform Promises - Part 1
00:00

Links

The United States makes up 5% of the world’s population, but nearly 20% of the world’s prison population. We have the highest rate of incarceration in the world, with over 2 million people in prison and jail.

Our system is the result of the dozens of choices we’ve made — choices that together stack the deck against the poor and the disadvantaged. Simply put, we have criminalized too many things. We send too many people to jail. We keep them there for too long. We do little to rehabilitate them. We spend billions, propping up an entire industry that profits from mass incarceration. And we do all of this despite little evidence that our harshly punitive system makes our communities safer — and knowing that a majority of people currently in prison will eventually return to our communities and our neighborhoods.

Preventing a mother from visiting her sons in prison because she cannot afford to pay parking tickets is wealth-based discrimination. Forcing someone to leave town because their mobile home is not worth enough is wealth-based discrimination. Keeping someone in jail prior to trial simply because they cannot afford bail — while those who can afford bail go free — is wealth-based discrimination. In all of these examples (and many more), people are penalized just for a lack of financial means.

While every state (and territory) sets a maximum age of juvenile court jurisdiction (in most states it is 18), in about two thirds of the states (and territories), there is no statute that specifies a minimum age under which a child cannot be adjudicated delinquent.

In those states without a statutory minimum, there is nothing legally preventing the state from prosecuting even the youngest of children. This runs contrary to all of the scientific research and emerging case law that recognizes children are inherently less culpable than adults and that the younger a person, the less competent he or she may be.

The Criminalization of Childhood

Sep 17, 2019
Ep. 21 - Elizabeth Warren's Criminal Justice Reform Promises - Part 2
00:00

Links

The United States makes up 5% of the world’s population, but nearly 20% of the world’s prison population. We have the highest rate of incarceration in the world, with over 2 million people in prison and jail.

Our system is the result of the dozens of choices we’ve made — choices that together stack the deck against the poor and the disadvantaged. Simply put, we have criminalized too many things. We send too many people to jail. We keep them there for too long. We do little to rehabilitate them. We spend billions, propping up an entire industry that profits from mass incarceration. And we do all of this despite little evidence that our harshly punitive system makes our communities safer — and knowing that a majority of people currently in prison will eventually return to our communities and our neighborhoods.

Sep 24, 2019
Ep. 19 - Bernie Sanders' Criminal Justice Reform Promises - Part 2
00:00

Links

For most of our history as a country, the United States incarcerated people at about the same rates as other western democracies do today. In the early 1970s we had the same low crime rate as today, but we now have an incarceration rate five times higher. Indeed, America is now the world’s leading jailer. We lock up more than 2 million people in America, which is more of our own people than any country on Earth. And that does not include another 5 million people who are under the supervision of the correctional system.

Hundreds of thousands of incarcerated people in America have not been convicted of a crime and are solely in jail because they can’t afford their bail. We are criminalizing poverty.

Thousands of juveniles are currently confined with adults in detention and correctional facilities throughout the United States. Juveniles confined in adult facilities face grave dangers to their safety and well-being, including significantly higher rates of physical assault, sexual abuse, and suicide than their counterparts in juvenile facilities. These dangers and other conditions of juvenile confinement with adults give rise to concerns of constitutional dimension. In its Eighth Amendment jurisprudence, the United States Supreme Court has created categorical rules prohibiting the imposition of certain punishments on entire categories of offenders as cruel and unusual punishment. The Court’s 2010 decision in Graham v. Florida, in which it held that a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole violates the Eighth Amendment when applied to juveniles convicted of nonhomicide offenses, and its 2012 decision in Miller v. Alabama, in which it held that mandatory life-without-parole sentencing schemes violate the Eighth Amendment when applied to juveniles, open the door to challenge the constitutionality of the confinement of juveniles with adults.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Juveniles may not be sentenced to life in prison without parole for any crime short of homicide, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday, expanding its command that young offenders must be treated differently from adults even for heinous crimes.

The court ruled 5 to 4 that denying juveniles who have not committed homicide a chance to ever rejoin society is counter to national and “global” consensus and violates the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The decision follows the court’s 2005 decision that, no matter what crime they commit, juveniles may not be executed. It also reinforced the court’s view that the Eighth Amendment’s protections against harsh punishment must be interpreted in light of the country’s “evolving standards of decency.”

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said states must provide juveniles who receive lengthy sentences a “meaningful” chance at some point to show they should be released.

While every state (and territory) sets a maximum age of juvenile court jurisdiction (in most states it is 18), in about two thirds of the states (and territories), there is no statute that specifies a minimum age under which a child cannot be adjudicated delinquent.

In those states without a statutory minimum, there is nothing legally preventing the state from prosecuting even the youngest of children. This runs contrary to all of the scientific research and emerging case law that recognizes children are inherently less culpable than adults and that the younger a person, the less competent he or she may be.

The Criminalization of Childhood

A study published in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science in 2014 found that, in New York, New Mexico, and North Carolina, felons favored the Democratic Party. In New York, some 62 percent were registered Democrats, compared to 9 percent who registered Republican; in New Mexico, 52 percent were Democrats, while about 10 percent were Republicans; and about 54 percent were Democrats in North Carolina, compared to the roughly 10 percent who were Republicans.

Sep 10, 2019
Ep. 18 - Bernie Sanders' Criminal Justice Reform Promises - Part 1
00:00

Links

For most of our history as a country, the United States incarcerated people at about the same rates as other western democracies do today. In the early 1970s we had the same low crime rate as today, but we now have an incarceration rate five times higher. Indeed, America is now the world’s leading jailer. We lock up more than 2 million people in America, which is more of our own people than any country on Earth. And that does not include another 5 million people who are under the supervision of the correctional system.

Hundreds of thousands of incarcerated people in America have not been convicted of a crime and are solely in jail because they can’t afford their bail. We are criminalizing poverty.

It’s based on the false premise that the justice system is draconian and racially oppressive, and it ignores that most prisoners are in state, not federal, prisons.

Assessments are utilized to determine specific criminal risk factors and needs. They may be used by courts, probation, community corrections, institutional facilities, and can be used to assist with determining pre-trial release, sentencing, supervision intensity, and treatment needed (i.e. cognitive behavioral, mental health, and substance abuse.)

Sep 04, 2019
Ep. 16 - Implementing Reform Is like Conducting an Orchestra, with Roger Przybylski
00:00

Follow Roger Przybylski’s work at:

Links

“When the cook tastes the soup, that’s formative [evaluation]. When the guests taste the soup, that’s summative [evaluation].”

– Robert E. Stake, Professor Emeritus of Education at the University of Illinois

Jul 25, 2019
Ep. 15 - The Meaning of Life, with Marc Mauer
00:00

Follow Marc Mauer’s work at:

The Meaning of Life: The Case for Abolishing Life Sentences

Links

In reaction to a study that found Iowa topped the nation in racial disparity in its prison population, Iowa Governor Chet Culver in April 2008 made history by signing into law the nation’s first piece of legislation to require policy makers to prepare racial impact statements for proposed legislation that affects sentencing, probation, or parole policies. In signing the bill, Gov. Culver noted that “I am committed to making sure government at all levels reflects our shared values of fairness and justice.” In the following months Connecticut and Wisconsin took similar action.

“One in every seven prisoners is serving some type of life sentence.”

– Marc Mauer

Result Votes Percentage
✅ Yes 938,182 64.35%
❌ No 519,731 35.65%
Jul 16, 2019
Ep. 13 - The Economic Impact of Persons Diverted From Prison
00:00

Links

Based on a 2011 report conducted by the United States (U.S.) Government Accountability Office, and on data taken from a factsheet produced by the Children’s Defense Fund for South Carolina (2011), we estimated that 25 children are not in foster care and three children were not adopted out of foster care because of SRA initiatives.

When we examine impacts of SRA initiatives implemented by the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services for the three year period, the cumulative impact on the South Carolina economy is $50.896 million.

Incarceration and Race in Michigan

Jun 27, 2019
Ep. 17 - Jeffrey Epstein and Suicide in Jail
00:00

Links

Suicide has been the leading cause of death in jails every year since 2000. In 2013, a third (34%) of jail inmate deaths were due to suicide. The suicide rate increased 14%, from 40 suicides per 100,000 jail inmates in 2012 to 46 per 100,000 in 2013.

Mortality rate per 100,000 jail inmates, by selected causes of death, 2000-2013

Number of prisoner deaths, by cause of death, 2000-2013

Suicide, long the leading cause of death in U.S. jails, hit a high of 50 deaths for every 100,000 inmates in 2014, the latest year for which the government has released data. That’s 2½ times the rate of suicides in state prisons and about 3½ times that of the general population.

Following are some findings regarding characteristics of the suicide victims:• Sixty-seven percent were white.

  • 93% were male.
  • The average age was 35.
  • 42% were single.
  • 43% were held on a personal and/or violent charge.
  • 47% had a history of substance abuse.
  • 28% had a history of medical problems.
  • 38% had a history of mental illness.
  • 20% had a history of taking psychotropic medication.
  • 34% had a history of suicidal behavior.

Suicide is often the single most common cause of death in correctional settings. Jails, prisons and penitentiaries are responsible for protecting the health and safety of their inmate populations, and the failure to do so, can be open to legal challenge. Further fuelled by media interest, a suicide in correctional facility can easily escalate into a political scandal. Moreover, suicidal behaviour by custodial inmates means a stressful event for officers and other prisoners faced with it. Therefore, the provision of adequate suicide prevention and intervention services is both beneficial to the prisoners in custody, as well as to the institution in which the services are offered. It is within this context that correctional settings worldwide struggle with the problem of preventing inmate suicide.

Aug 26, 2019
Ep. 12 - The Role of Defense Attorneys
00:00

Links

Jun 18, 2019
Ep. 14 - A Call to Action on Racial Disparity
00:00

Links

“Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But, conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because one’s conscience tells one that it is right”

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “A Proper Sense of Priorities”, February 6, 1968

President Obama Visits Federal Prison

Jul 02, 2019
Ep. 11 - Reducing Costs in Criminal Justice
00:00

Links

It cost the state — and by extension, taxpayers — an average of $36,106 to incarcerate a single person in Michigan in 2017.

You can buy a new Ford Explorer for that, according to Kelley Blue Book.

At that rate, a single prisoner sentenced to 30 or more years would cost Michigan taxpayers more than $1 million to incarcerate.

FY 2018-19 MDOC Budget

$2,019,056,200 – Total spending authority from all revenue sources

Michigan House Budget Michigan Corrections Budget
Jun 12, 2019
Ep. 10 - Trust the Methodology
00:00

Links

Working on criminal justice topics gives me a very different perspective on the Kochs than my equally-liberal friends & family have. Charles Koch Foundation & Charles Kock Institute are perhaps the most important funders of research related to criminal justice policy & reform.

They also frequently host conferences that bring top-notch researchers and practitioners together in one room — a chance to meet everyone else who’s working in this space. In other words, they throw great parties — sounds trivial but this is super important & helpful!

Charles Koch Foundation has funded my own work related to prisoner reentry and I am deeply grateful for that as well as their broader support of my research. My contacts there & Charles Kock Institute are the first I call if I’m looking for practioner contacts. They know everyone!

As funders they are extremely hands-off — to a degree that is almost funny. I think they know people are watching them closely for missteps so are super careful. But most funders in this space have strong opinions abt what you should study & what you should find. They don’t.

Koch Industries for a long time was a major proponent of Ban the Box policies. When my research on BTB (which they did not fund) came out, showing detrimental effects, they were eager to hear about it & engage w the results. I really appreciated that.

To my fellow liberals that love to hate the Koch brothers, I simply say: the story is more complicated (as always, right?). Charles Koch in particular is enabling & supporting evidence-based CJ reform in red & blue states alike, and that is something we should all appreciate.

Example of Correlation-Causation Escalation

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, uncovered a potential link between P. gingivalis, the bacteria associated with periodontal disease (commonly known as gum disease) and Alzheimer’s.

Infectious agents have been found in the brain and postulated to be involved with AD, but robust evidence of causation has not been established.

Jun 04, 2019
Ep. 8 - Unemployment, Before and After Prison
00:00
May 14, 2019
Ep. 5 - How do we know what works?
00:00
Apr 22, 2019
Ep. 9 - Institutional Ego and Broken Promises in Mississippi
00:00

Links

Between 1993 and 2013, Mississippi’s prison population more than quadrupled, thanks largely to mandatory minimum sentences, with the population peaking in the past decade at more than 23,000. The state had a higher per capita rate of incarceration than countries such as China or Russia.

By the time the bill became law in July 2014, the Mississippi Parole Board was paroling more offenders and had already reduced the prison population by about 2,000 inmates. Within six months, it fell even more, to below 19,000.

Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps was indicted Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014, on charges of conspiracy, bribery, money laundering conspiracy and wire fraud. Epps resigned from his post Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014.

Pew Charitable Trusts Headquarters
May 21, 2019
Ep. 6 - Free Labor
00:00

Links

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

There is also an embroidery shop which makes all the hats for the NCAA, the NFL, major league baseball teams and companies such as Gear and Sprint. In addition there are several other smaller shops that make goods of various kinds, all with inmate labor. It is quite fascinating and keeping these men busy I believe is the reason this area seems so tranquil. There are several private companies that work inside the walls and supply “civilian” crew bosses who teach the inmates how to operate the machinery and provide them with a trade if they don’t have one.

At any given time there are 500-600 men working in the industrial division on three 8-hour shifts — 24 hours a day if needed. They are paid minimum prevailing wage to start and 25 percent goes back to the penitentiary for room and board. Ten percent is put into mandatory savings, a small amount is paid into each inmates commissary account and the balance is paid into a victims’ restitution fund.

  • Minimum wage in the United States, in dollars per hour: $5.15
  • Average hourly rate paid at a prison camp in Nevada: $0.13
  • Maximum wage paid to prisoner workers in dollars per day in Georgia and Texas: $0
  • Most prisons that pay prisoners for work have a range of pay depending on the job. Average of the minimum wages for prisoners paid by the states, in dollars per day for non-industry work: $0.93
  • Average of the maximum wages paid to prisoners by the states, in dollars per day: $4.73
  • Lowest wage reported, in dollars per day, for prisoners working in private industry: $0.16
Apr 30, 2019
Ep. 7 - Privatization of Prisons
00:00

Links

May 07, 2019
Ep. 4 - Racial Disparity
00:00

Links

  • New Zealand bans suspect’s manifesto (The Detroit News)

  • The New Jim Crowe, by Michelle Alexander (Wikipedia)

  • Jack Maple – creator of CompStat methodology that reduced crime in NYC but ultimately lead to arrest quotas (Wikipedia)

  • North Carolina Jury Sunshine Project findings (Wake Forest University)

    1. Women and men serve on felony trial juries at about the same rate.
    2. Prosecutors remove twice as many potential black jurors at trial as white jurors (20 percent of available black jurors compared with 10 percent of available white jurors).
    3. Judges remove 14 percent of available black jurors compared with 10 percent of available white jurors.
    4. Defense attorneys remove white jurors more often: they exclude 22 percent of the available white jurors versus 10 percent of the available black jurors.
    5. The differences in removal rates are different for urban and rural districts, with racial disparities larger on average in urban districts.
    6. The differences in removal rates are different from some urban districts than for other urban districts: the largest disparities occur in Charlotte, Durham, and Winston-Salem, while smaller disparities happen in Fayetteville, Greensboro, and Raleigh.
    7. Juries with more black males tend to acquit the defendant more often, all other things being equal.
    8. Juries with more white males tend to convict the defendant more often, all other things being equal.
    9. Juries with more black females tend to acquit more often, but only slightly; juries with more white females do not tend to acquit or convict any more often than the overall pool of trials.
  • John Engler, 46th Governor of Michigan, from 1991 to 2003 (Wikipedia)

  • First Step Act (Wikipedia)

  • Criminal Conviction of Charles Kushner (Wikipedia)

  • Assessment platforms:

Apr 15, 2019
Ep. 3 - Plea Bargaining
00:00

Links


But in this era of mass incarceration — when our nation’s prison population has quintupled in a few decades partly as a result of the war on drugs and the “get tough” movement — these rights are, for the overwhelming majority of people hauled into courtrooms across America, theoretical. More than 90 percent of criminal cases are never tried before a jury. Most people charged with crimes forfeit their constitutional rights and plead guilty.

– Michelle Alexander, Go to Trial: Crash the Justice System (NYTimes)


Apr 08, 2019
Ep. 2 - Community Engagement
00:00

Links

The report [by The Sentencing Project] estimated that, as of 2016, around 6.1 million people, or about 2.5 percent of the U.S. voting age population, were disenfranchised due to a felony conviction. Florida was estimated to have 1,686,318 persons—10.43 percent of the voting age population—disenfranchised due to felonies. The majority of the disenfranchised persons, around 88.23 percent, were estimated to have completed their sentences. Florida had the highest rate of felons disenfranchised in the U.S. in 2016, according to the report. The estimated average rate of felon disenfranchisement across the 50 states was 2.28 percent in 2016.

The Sentencing Project

Apr 02, 2019
Ep. 1 - What is Criminal Justice?
00:00
Mar 28, 2019