At Symposium, Experts and Advocates Hope to Reform the Criminal Justice System

NEW YORK – On Monday, the first day of the Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America, held at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a standing-room-only crowd of criminal justice experts, academics, advocates and journalists spilled out of the small conference room and into the large, modern glass and metal entry hall. They were there to discuss how to fix the United States’ rapidly growing prison population, among other problems.

The conference, titled “The Problem That Won’t Go Away: How drugs, race and mass incarceration have distorted American justice (and what to do about it),” featured six panels over two days tackling areas of the criminal justice system that, the panelists say, are ripe for reform and critically important. But the two subjects discussed most were drugs and prisons. Panels Monday included “America’s Addictions,” “Gangs, Drugs and Urban Violence” and “Crime and Criminal Justice Trends 2011-2012.”

Within the juvenile justice field, Dr. Jeffrey Butts, Director of the John Jay Center on Research and Evaluation said there was some good news. “National trends in youth crime show that juvenile arrests are down since the 90s,” he said.

OJJDP Finds Information Gap in Juvenile Transfer Cases

Since the 1980’s, nearly every state has passed or expanded juvenile transfer laws that allow kids to be tried as adults in some cases. But a recent report from the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) found that only 13 states publicly report how many kids are transferred each year and even fewer report any details of those transfers. According to the report, in the states that publicly reported, 14,000 youth were transferred to criminal courts in 2007, the last year data was available. However, that number has declined sharply since 1994. Writing in the report, OJJDP Acting Administrator Jeff Slowikowski said, “To obtain the critical information that policymakers, planners, and other concerned citizens need to assess the impact of expanded transfer laws, we must extend our knowledge of the prosecution of juveniles in criminal courts.”

Young people accused of a crime are sent to juvenile or criminal court, in part, based on their age — 18 in most states, but as young as 16 in others, the report says.

Juvenile Justice Reform Experts, Advocates Offers Suggestions For Change

Juvenile justice system experts and reform advocates were among those who converged upon Miami last week for an annual conference hosted by the Open Society Institute (OSI). The, New York City-based private operating and grantmaking foundation focuses on criminal justice system reform. We asked a few of them “what single change would you make to the juvenile justice system?” Here’s what they had to say.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tarsha Jackson, an organizer with the Texas Reconciliation Project, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and the Houston chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. “I think there needs to be more focus on prevention programs, but the biggest change I would make is to train all of the system stakeholders – the district attorneys, judges, court personnel – and train them on the definition of family involvement.

Flogging is “Unsettling” but Better Than Prison, Says Criminal Justice Expert

At first glance, flogging appears to be an archaic, cruel punishment too reminiscent of the Dark Ages.  But former police officer and current criminal justice professor Peter Moskos thinks flogging could be one solution to many of the problems facing the criminal justice system — problems such as overcrowding.  Moskos’ new book, In Defense of Flogging, lays out his argument. In an interview with Salon.com, Moskos said he thinks when compared to prison, flogging is “the lesser of two evils.”

“Taking away a significant chunk of someone’s life is far worse than any punishment that is virtually instantaneous,” he told Salon.  “We should be honest about prison and recognize that we’re sentencing people to years of confinement and torture.”

Moskos admits that flogging isn’t a likely alternative to incarceration, but hopes his book will get people thinking outside the box. “I wanted to throw a hand grenade into this debate because I don’t really see it going anywhere,” he said.

New Graduate Program in Criminal Justice Offers Advanced Knowledge

A new master’s degree program in Criminal Justice begins in the fall at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga. The Master’s of Science in Criminal Justice features eight experienced faculty members and an expanded curriculum that includes courses such as “Critical Issues in Criminal Justice” and “Criminal Justice Policy and Analysis.”

A summer study abroad program gives students a chance to participate in experiential education in another country. The current undergraduate program in Criminal Justice includes 650 students.  Kennesaw State University is the third largest university in Georgia and faculty and students will be provided a number of research opportunities in collaboration with several centers in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.