In my early career I worked in and around the criminal justice system. Some of this appears under ATTORNEY or AUTHOR, such as writing The Real War on Crime or my new chapter on Decarceration. Here the good stuff that doesn’t fit there:
Prison Policy Initiative
This little think tank does cutting edge advocacy on criminal justice, especially its effect on democracy. I was on the Board of Directors for twelve years (including nine years as president) but now I’m down to the Advisory Board.
One of our signature issues is “prison gerrymandering” – an issue I first identified in 2002. The trouble is that the US census counts people in prison where their bodies are held, not where they come from. So urban, minority (Democratic-leaning) districts are depopulated for rural, white (Republican-leaning) districts, even though the “imported constituents” can’t vote and have no real part in the community. Since we uncovered the issue, we’ve been engaged in efforts to fix it. Ten states have now changed their laws to mitigate the distortion, including New York and California. Hundreds of counties have changed their rules.
2018 update, sigh: The Census Bureau kept the old rule for the 2020 Census — even though 99% of the 77,863 comments on the Bureau’s proposed rule change agreed with the need for change. We’ll never know what Hillary Clinton’s Census Director might have done. Trump’s killed the reform.
Other important issues relate to prison phone calls and visitor visitation. Some of this I talk about under “attorney.” I’m pretty darned happy with the work PPI has been doing on bail reform.
National Center on Institutions and Alternatives:
I helped manage direct service programs for people caught up in the justice system, especially kids. I even learned about sex offenses by working in treatment programs for victims and pedophiles.
One in five young African American men in Baltimore was in prison or jail in 2005.
That Baltimore finding is in the spirit of a similar study I did in Washington DC in 1997 (one in two young black men in DC is under justice supervision – in prison or jail, probation or parole) and that the Sentencing Project releases periodically.
No, I’m not claiming that they’re all innocent. But we need to think hard about locking up so many people in a free society.
The National Criminal Justice Commission
As Associate Director, I helped manage this commission of academics, attorneys and practitioners. I was principle author of our report, published by HarperCollins.
Alliance of Concerned Men
I helped manage operations at this very cool, streetsy organization that works to reduce violence in troubled DC neighborhoods and schools. I played a key role in the reconciliation between the mothers of the shooter and the victim of a notorious crime. (The Washington Post covered it nicely).
DC Justice “Revitalization”
Around roughly 2000, the federal government assumed major responsibility for the DC justice system. The local Lorton prison closed, people were transferred to federal custody, etc. etc. I was involved in many ways … and drafted this op-ed that’s still one of my favorites (and I still have a brick from the original prison):
Lorton Closing Opens A Door for Reform