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Taking advantage of the window for criminal justice reform

[cross-posted from Facebook]

A friend of mine recently posted: “I wish Breonna Taylor got as much attention as Aunt Jemima.” Absolutely. I love the enthusiasm across the board, but I do hope there can be enough focus on actually accomplishing some major reforms to the criminal justice system while people are interested and motivated to effect change.

And no, what has been proposed by the President is not it. As Radley Balko said: “The highlights of Trump’s police reform plan: 1) Addressing the system’s inability to hold bad cops accountable by setting up a database of bad cops whom the system has held accountable. 2) Banning chokeholds, except when cops decide they need to use one. 3) LAWANDORDER”

Here are a few things that I would support (certainly not an exclusive list):

  1. End Qualified Immunity (as it exists now). As originally intentioned in the 1967 Supreme Court ruling, the doctrine was intended to prevent nuisance suits. Qualified immunity prevented suing a police officer for violating rights unless those rights were clearly established and would reasonably be known. As it currently stands and is bizarrely being interpreted by the courts (in the last 15 years or so), plaintiffs must prove that there exists a prior court determination made in actual litigation under facts extremely close to those of the case at hand, or else the case is dismissed (It’s the “how could I possibly have known that having a dog attack a suspect who is sitting on the ground with his hands up is a violation of his rights, since in the prior case, the suspect was lying down?” defense). Yes, that’s an actual example (Baxter v. Bracy). This makes it almost impossible to sue regardless of how egregious the behavior. The Supreme Court has just chosen not to visit this, so it needs to be done through legislation. This is an area that has some bi-partisan support (tri-partisan, actually, with Amash co-sponsoring a bill in the House). Short of eliminating qualified immunity, I’d accept a significant adjustment to the doctrine that prevents trivial lawsuits while not assuming all police officers to be ignorant of the rights of citizens.
  2. End the drug war. Treat drug abuse like a medical and social problem (which is what it is) and not a criminal problem. Plenty of other countries are doing much better than we are with drugs because they’ve taken it out of the criminal justice system (we don’t have to invent something new – good models already exist). At the very least, legalize marijuana at the federal level, eliminate all drug task forces, and remove all financial incentives (asset forfeiture, etc.) that end up prioritizing drug policing over other kinds of policing.
  3. Related to 2, eliminate the DEA. It has become a violent rogue federal law enforcement agency that is rife with corruption and abuse of power, and regularly undermines local authority when it comes to policing. If not eliminated, re-purpose the organization to focusing on making sure federal pharmaceutical supply chains needed for medical purposes are not disrupted.
  4. Also related to 2, end the use of SWAT-style approaches (including all dynamic entry) except as originally intended (hostage situations). The explosion of serving warrants using SWAT-style approaches has made policing much more life-threatening for both citizens and police. There are other ways to safely serve warrants (no more Breonna Taylors, please!).
  5. End the militarization of police forces. Small-town police forces don’t need tanks, and images of soldiers in the street do not promote peaceful problem-solving.
  6. Accountability. This is probably the most challenging. A lack of accountability breeds a lack of respect. And when one player fails to protect and serve (and yet stay on the force), it damages all (the bad apple spoils the barrel). Trust is impossible when there is undiscerning blue fandom, unwillingness to turn in those who betray the trust, and an inability to permanently weed out those who need to be in another profession. This is going to require changing internal culture and the role of the unions, as well as developing better independent oversight.
  7. Work to dramatically reduce prison populations. End any agreements with private prisons that contractually require a certain percentage of cells filled (quotas). Release non-violent drug war prisoners. Change laws to end the practice of piling on sentences for low-level non-violent criminals. Use incarceration savings to fund transition programs, and work to re-enfranchise released prisoners.
  8. Related to 7, we must stop evaluating District Attorneys by how many people they incarcerated and for how long, but rather how they most efficiently used the resources of the judicial system to make us safe. Not quantity, but quality.

For me, that would be a good start. What would you add?

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26 comments to Taking advantage of the window for criminal justice reform

  • Son of Sam Walton

    Eliminate the 1961 U.N. Singles laws or have us back out of it. Plus end jury selection for prosecutors in non violent crimes. Make private prisons illegal or force them to issue yearly shares to those called citizens because of constitutional issues and the fact the people are gov and so is the constitution.

    • WalStMonky

      .
      .

      Still on the public/private prison nonsense? It’s still differentiation without distinction.

      • Son of Sam Walton

        Simple dilution of shares if the law requires them to pass out somewhere in the high 300 to low 400 million a year realm for all those under the constitution. Stocks you don’t have to buy, thus eroding the reason to own them if the Fed forces them to issue a single share a year to all those considered U.S. citizens.

        Michelle said something about digital fence rows along the neighborhood, plus a $300 a month device to wear. Anonymous could hack private prison monitor devices and window/fence monitoring locations. Like when you install home security. Corporations who churn a profit off prison labor should be required to pay prisoners the standard health care, 401k, and wages for work meant to leave the facility. It is one thing to force the prisoner to work, but the work should only stay on grounds and not for a profit. Force corporations to pay prisoners in the form of a ‘learning to work’ plan . . . teaching them how to earn a wage, health care, 401k, plus skills. Why work inside if being a felon makes it all but impossible to get another job on the outside, thus back in. So, prison employment would follow to the free world where a job is waiting based on his or her current resume of work.

        Reform by any other name is incarceration by another: Michelle Alexander.

        • WalStMonky

          .
          .

          Say Pete, don’t you know that the private prison guarantees are settled in cash? I’ve got no clue why in the world so many people think that there has to be an inmate in the cells to meet their quotas. Why wouldn’t a prison company prefer the obligation be settled in cash? 90% capacity? Of course every time I further reflect on this issue Cool Hand Luke pops into my brain. Yeah, it was a work of fiction…fiction based on fact. Where in the USA is there a jail running at lower than 150% of capacity? Prisons at 90% of capacity? Maybe in Switzerland or The Netherlands.

          PS no I don’t and won’t own any private prison stocks. They’re absolutely horridly run businesses and have been for over 2 decades.

        • And, of course, it doesn’t matter if it’s quotas or a cash settlement — either way, there’s no economic benefit to the state to reducing prison populations.

  • NorCalNative

    Somebody needs to slip this under Sleepy Joe’s pillow.

    Well said Pete, a great wishlist. Second Amendment rights for those who use cannabis to own and purchase a gun would be appreciated.

    • kaptinemo

      Sleepy Joe gave us the ONDCP. First, make him take back his plague-ridden ‘gift’ to America.

      • darkcycle

        I literally could have supported ANYBODY but Joe Biden. ANYBODY. But Joe is the reason so many lives were ruined, he’s the person most single handedly responsible for the current prison population explosion, he was the biggest cheerleader of the Iraq war in the entire Democratic party. He’s the reason my entire career was either spent in unhappy abstinence or fear of losing my license to practice. Never will I be able to cast a vote for him. Ever. Doesn’t matter that he is running against Orange Mussolini. The Apricot Shitler still hasn’t matched the damage already done by Biden. No WAY I will give him my endorsement. Jill Stein for President.

  • Son of Sam Walton

    But do we have any ‘larger than theirs’ reasons to end the War on Drugs? Drug money keeps Iraq in harm, thus forcing them to sell their oil at much cheaper prices just to fund rebuilding programs and security. Because of 2007’s Denationalization, China and India are neck to neck being Iraq’s largest buyer. Drug money funded violence in Iraq a.k.a. Keeping drugs illegal, is helping India and china to buy Iraqi oil at cheaper prices, making plastics for the world, growing their economies.

    India and China both border Afghanistan, thus affected by the ever growing trade for computer chip minerals and opium. And drug money keeps Afghanistan so poor and hazardous, that India and China get the better end of the deal. So, this makes it easier for the nations to compete with each other for dominance . . . and America is a large dealer of arms to India.

    In comparison to America’s communities of black and brown and stigmatization of ‘other’ and ‘criminal’, the War on Drugs makes neighborhoods of color a target. What about China’s concentration camps of Muslims and the new “Muslim Experience” for Chinese Tourists to have an authentic visit to the regions of Islam, minus the Muslims . . . maybe a Bombing in the 2008 Olympics did something to increase control and propaganda. North Korea are dope dealers and so is Afghanistan and the Triad. Would an increase in poverty and state control be created from only giving Hans the new jobs, plus the decades of Uyghur Chinese resisting total change, along with their culture being forced out of opportunity and modernity created from globalization, resulting in a poverty and oppression distinct in racially segregated minorities? Religious restrictions would thus lead to an increase of Drug Money funded Extremism and gangs made up of Muslim Chinese youngsters looking to survive the oppression, while remaining strong in their heritage. Is an increase of the Crime in Muslim China coming from drugs and drug money, followed by the poverty manufactured out of the Han etc coming in droves and taking the jobs? Is this an excuse to use ‘Law and Order’ to sanitize Islam out of China via the Concentration camps?

    So, China is afraid of how the War on Drugs would inspire the minorities to rise in remote areas or come in the form of full funding from larger outside groups like the Taliban etc, while taking full advantage of drug money lowered prices on Iraqi and Afghan goods. And America has some sort of advantage or need for China and India to compete for dominance . . . possibly to retard Chinese growth and ambitions for U.S. concerns, and also a China distracted by India and Islam will spend their money in a way that helps make America great again in the eyes of Washington.

    Absolutely no Blow Back will come from this . . . fingers crossed.

    Oil Lubes the World, but What Lubes Oil? Oh, that’s right, drug money.

  • Servetus

    One reason cops are able to become hysterical or violent when it comes to drug arrests is that certain federal agencies are committed to dispensing a type of propaganda that allows police, prosecutors, judges and politicians to always think they’re doing the right thing when it comes to prosecuting illicit drug use or sales, no matter what the circumstances. One such propaganda agency is the National Institute for Drug Abuse, or NIDA. Abolish the NIDA, and with it Director Nora Volkow’s job.

    The NIDA plays little games to prevent funding research that might make recreational drugs look good. Its agenda enables an assault on the integrity of science using skewed grant funding solicitations and news announcements. In the future, all drug research solicitations and communications should be channeled through the National Institute of Health without prejudice as to whether the intended research might reveal facts that favor or disfavor certain drugs or chemical compounds.

    Also, make small quantities of drugs legal for research–and personal use–so that researchers need not defer to a notorious and unreliable agency like the Drug Enforcement Administration to obtain a DEA license and DEA sourced drug samples for their work.

  • NorCalNative

    darkcycle, thanks for your thoughts on 2020.

    I’ve wavered back and forth on whether to support Biden. At this point I think I’d trade prison for a joint over another 4 years of Republican facism led by the magnificent malignant narcissist.

    A national police organization that supported Obama BECAUSE of Biden now believe he’s not worthy. They think he dissed them by supporting BLM. They also feel Biden has continually moderated his position, moving to the Left.

    The Biden camp knows his law enforcement bonafides are a liability, a huge liability. I’m a fan of Jill and voted for her in 2012. Take care dude.

  • Daniel Williams

    First, in today’s America one cannot get prison for possessing one joint.

    And second, I’ll take four more years of Trump over the day or two Biden would serve before the Dems invoke the 25th Amendment over his dementia and kick him to the curb in order to further their anti-American, racist agenda.

    • DdC

      Oh Danny, Trump’s maga cult kills American’s, Biden’s sins are being too GOP joining their antidrug just say no rayguns bullshit, same as the DNC. Bernie was the only American choice. Biden had a chance and backed down some but latest is he still threatens pot shops and with federal research pot being crap, research is DEA bullshit results. McCommie is more of a threat than trumpy the clown.

      As for Ganja, by federalist states rights and accident, Trump has had a better record for Ganja than anyone I can think of since before Nixon. Over taxed and regulated mho, but the convenience, if pricey, has a variety and consistency unmatched. As for a human being, he sucks deeply. His racism is the same as prohibition, a tool of fascism. Duping the gullible, keeping competition off of the market shelves. Cheap labor. Profits are the Prophets.

      I think by leading maga to the poison land of Cv19 rally’s, bankrupting the treasury and instigating riots by the intervention with the governor to not arrest the killer cops. Then getting all punk rambo. He aligns with Putin and the authoritarian oligarch’s in Turkey and Brazil. Just a narcissistic fool that is selling us out.

      Putin’s bitch McConnell is a greater threat blocking legislation as any common fascist. Denying all 50 states from representation. Why most Ganja bills never get heard. Just a whore that needs removed. Then keep trump from TV, pot shops, restaurants, amazoon and groceries delivering. I’m pretty close to a happy camper.

      Punk Trump’s Bible Thumpn Chumps Flunked.
      maga gunuts shooting themselves with Cv19.
      https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EbUOCFAU4AA3M5T?format=jpg&name=small

      Oklahoma seeing record spike in COVID-19 cases just
      days ahead of Trump’s rally in Tulsa
      https://t.co/JYvBgtuQ1r?amp=1

      Rush Limbaugh
      Health experts are “Deep State”
      shouldn’t be trusted
      https://t.co/cgZzSMltD6?amp=1

      Cannabis: America’s Fastest-Growing Sector
      15%⬆2019 Employs Over 240,000 Full-Time Workers
      https://t.co/dts2XfyVFE?amp=1

      Ganja Jobs
      https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EbUIf2TU4AAwlnO?format=jpg&name=small

      • Daniel Williams

        Bernie was the only American choice? Really? You don’t mean the same Bernie that sold you out in 2016 and again this year? That Bernie?

        Seems that *Bern* you and other silly socialists were feeling turned out to be an STD.

        • DdC

          DNC sold Bernie out in 2016 and 2020. Brazile admitted it. Bernie hasn’t dropped out yet, just quit campaigning. If Biden drops out DNC will push Hilary, but Bernie should take it. idk some are so paranoid of Putin’s bitch they’d vote both Clintons. The true enemy of the state is Cocaine McCommie.

          3 GOP Block Legal Statuss

          Typical and weak to try and buzzword Bernie. He is a democrat not a communist. This is a social country. Most sane Social Distance and use Social Security. We have safety nets for Americans most fake federalist want to cut. Not social nationalism as the magats push.

          Bernie Fauci 2020

          Elizabeth Warren and Donna Brazile
          both now agree the 2016 Democratic primary was rigged

          Inside Hillary Clinton’s Secret Takeover of the DNC

          Make
          America
          Great
          Again
          Trump

          Donald Jr
          Eric
          Barron
          Ivanka
          Tiffany

        • Ert Kern

          Uh-oh…someone’s grandchildren aren’t in the mood to swallow and it’s making Grampa bitchy and genocidal.

        • Jablonski's Ghost

          Donald Trump may be a racist, misogynist, pedophile, sexual predator, rapist, pathological liar, malignant narcissist, lifetime criminal, corrupt shitweasel, mass murderer, and damn traitor, but it’s important to remember, that like you Daniel, he is also one of the dumbest persons alive.

        • Daniel Williams

          Being called one of the dumbest people alive by someone posing as the ghost of a serial killer just confirms my belief that Pete’s once great couch has become infested with silly little cunts like you.

          Pete must be so proud…

  • DdC

    “Lester Grinspoon, M.D., the longtime Harvard professor, psychiatrist, and author of twelve books — including Marihuana Reconsidered, the single most comprehensive and thoughtful and convincing explanation of the crucial need to end marijuana prohibition and establish a legal marijuana market — passed away early this morning. He was 92 years old.”

    NORML Remembers Dr. Lester Grinspoon

    RIP DR. GRINSPOON

    RIP Dr. Lester Grinspoon:
    Intellectual Leader of Marijuana Legalization Movement Dies at 92

    Dr. Lester Grinspoon celebrated his 92nd birthday on June 25 and passed away in the early morning of June 26, with his wife Betsy by his side.

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  • Servetus

    End the war in Afghanistan. More drug war disaster stories from Jeffrey St. Clair, on How the CIA Made Afghanistan Safe for the Opium Trade

    “I decided I could live with that.”– Stansfield Turner, Jimmy Carter’s CIA director, on the extreme level of civilian casualties in the CIA’s covert war in Afghanistan.

  • Servetus

    Another marijuana myth has been busted–the one saying that coffee grounds can deter the detection of contraband by sniffer dogs.

  • Servetus

    More meddling from an NIDA funded social worker who’s worried that the proliferation of recreational marijuana dispensaries in Washington State may be “slowing reductions in teen marijuana use.” That’s what she said, slowing reductions. The researcher must be talking about all those teens with hundred-dollar bills stuffed in their pockets. Or do teens and young adults these days grow their own stash in their parents’ attic? The researchers don’t say:

    A key concern with the passage and expansion of nonmedical marijuana legalization (NML) for adults is that teen use may increase, perhaps through increased availability or the perception that marijuana use is not harmful because it is legal. Alternatively, NML may slow or stop recent population-level decreases in the prevalence of teen substance use through similar mechanisms. Given that marijuana use often co-occurs with alcohol and cigarette use, there also is concern that teen alcohol or cigarette use may increase after NML. […]

    Related Journal Article (pdf):

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2020.04.008

    The researchers discovered a number correlation by looking at an extended span of time, in this case 20 years of data involving a few hundred people in Washington who were part of a longitudinal study and its follow-up.

    “A teen usage rate that holds steady isn’t good enough if it would normally be going down. We need to devote more attention to prevention of adolescent use in the context of legalization because we want to keep the decreases we’ve been seeing before legalization was implemented,” Bailey said.

    University of Washington Press Release:

    https://www.washington.edu/news/2020/07/20/legal-marijuana-may-be-slowing-reductions-in-teen-marijuana-use-study-says/

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