Back in February, the House of Representatives by a 360-59 margin passed H.R. 5628, the “First Step” Act – an acronym for the “Formerly Incarcerated Re-enter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act.” With bipartisan co-sponsors, Reps. Doug Collins (R-GA) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), the bill had cleared the House Judiciary Committee by a 25-5…

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The House Judiciary Committee on May 9 approved, by a 25-5 margin, the Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act (H.R. 5682), known for short as the “First Step” Act. Sponsored by Reps. Doug Collins (R-GA) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), the measure is a pared-down revision of the Prison Reform and Corrections Act…

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Inmates housed in the Federal Bureau of Prisons have the right to access law libraries where they can research legal issues and prepare legal filings. This right was established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821 (1997), which required each institution to “establish a main law library[.]” The law…

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In a unanimous and lengthy opinion, the Vermont Supreme Court dismissed a charge of unauthorized practice of law brought against a jailhouse lawyer. Martin Serendipity Morales, a prisoner who identifies as female, was being held at the Marble Valley Regional Correctional Center when she was charged with a felony by Bennington County prosecutors. Her crime?…

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According to the study reported in this video, California’s Realignment Initiative is resulting in more auto thefts throughout the state.   The study does not suggest building more prisons to house California’s criminals.  Instead, the authors of the study propose finding alternative methods to reduce crime.

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By Christopher Petrella and Alex Friedmann

David Harvey, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the City University of New York, writes that “capitalism never resolves its problems; it simply rearranges them geographically.” The same can be said of California’s almost three-year-old Public Safety Realignment initiative – legislation designed to reduce the Golden State’s prison population, in part, by transferring thousands of prisoners from state facilities to county jails.

Sadly, Realignment has merely shifted the very forms of human suffering it was originally intended to relieve. This – the paradox of modern penal reform – adds a crucial dimension to discussions about who, why and how we punish offenders. Clearly, shifting a criminal justice crisis isn’t the same as solving one.

The Realignment Initiative

Since at least 2011, the State of California has been the epicenter of contemporary prison reform in the United States. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics has noted that 70% of the total decrease in state prison populations from 2010 to 2011 was a direct result of California’s Public Safety Realignment initiative.

On May 23, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an order by a three-judge federal court requiring the state to reduce its prison population to 137.5% of design capacity within two years to alleviate overcrowding that resulted in unconstitutional medical and mental health care. [See: PLN, June 2011, p.1]. California Governor Jerry Brown had called the court’s order “a blunt instrument that does not recognize the imperatives of public safety, nor the challenges of incarcerating criminals, many of whom are deeply disturbed.”

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