Report

Racial Disparities March 8, 2023

Exploring Latino/a Representation in Local Criminal Justice Systems: A Review of Data Collection Practices and Systems-Involvement

Nancy Rodriguez and Rebecca Tublitz

Today, just under one in five people in the U.S. self-identify as being of Latino origin. Yet, remarkably, despite the size and diversity of the Latino population in the U.S., we do not know how many Hispanic and Latino people are arrested. That's because we are still not collecting the data in enough detail. The U.S. has simply never paid close enough attention to the experience of Latino people in our criminal justice system. A new report seeks to change that. The report, "Exploring Latino/a Representation in Local Criminal Justice Systems: A Review of Data Collection Practices and Systems-Involvement", finds that Latino and White rates of justice involvement are similar. Often, the rates for Latinos are lower than those of Whites. But these findings could be the result of the inaccurate representation of Latinos in criminal justice data. This report should be the first of many to take a comprehensive look at this jail population. Its findings will help us develop much-needed reforms to the system and further racial equity.

Reflections on Power During Black History Month

By: Gordon Goodwin, Alex Frank

Community Engagement Racial Disparities February 21, 2023

This past November, during our bi-annual Facing Race Conference, community organizer Sendolo Diaminah–Co-Director and Founder of the Carolina Federation–made the following statement: “We have power, we want more, and we want to be responsible with it and be accountable to an ethic.” This bold statement was shared to challenge the audience of 3,000 racial justice advocates to “release our fear of power”, while elevating the importance of “being responsible with power”.

We offer this in the spirit of deep reflection this Black History month. We at Race Forward and the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) believe in the audacious dream of a multi-racial democracy. We envision a world without prisons, and one in which people of color thrive with power and purpose. But we have a long way to go.

In GARE, we support a network of over 400 city, state, regional jurisdictions, and state departments committed to advancing racial equity. And as we know, the work to advance racial equity requires disrupting and shifting power to the people most harmed and impacted by systemic racism. Within the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) community, this often means letting go, making space, and centering the expertise of system-impacted people and frontline staff, while investing in infrastructure for community-led government accountability.

On the heels of Black History Month, our team will be hosting the SJC Racial Equity Cohort sites–Cook County, Pima County, Philadelphia, and New Orleans–in Montgomery, Alabama, on the Indigenous land of the Muscogee people, as the first of a three-part Learning Exchange Retreat series. We are gathering there to hold space, build solidarity, and deepen our collective learning about our history of colonization, genocide, enslavement, and mass incarceration, in order to support the Focused Racial Equity Cohort Sites’ work in that social, historical, and political analysis.

We will be joined by community leaders, people who have been harmed by the justice system, and government leaders seeking to make change from the inside. Preparing for this event reminds us of the generational trauma of our people, and the impact of that trauma today. But we do not want to use this platform to focus on trauma. Instead, let us center generational resilience.

Generational resilience lives in every cell of our bodies. It surfaces when we cook, share a meal, listen to music, soak our feet, dance, laugh, and cry. While generational resilience is a personal experience, it is also a political expression. We are reminded of Shaun Ginwright, an author, activist, and professor in the Africana Studies Department at San Francisco State University, and his writing about this: “Healing centered engagement is explicitly political, rather than clinical,” he writes. “When people advocate for policies and opportunities that address causes of trauma, such as lack of access to mental health, these activities contribute to a sense of purpose, power and control over life situations.”

Earlier this month, we all witnessed Tyre Nichols killing at the hands of Memphis, Tennessee law enforcement as a result of being severely beaten and left uncared for. We, along with others across the country, grieve for Tyre’s family and his community which continues to recount how they have been terrorized by law enforcement. Public safety requires public trust; but the history of law enforcement was not built on trust, it was built on White supremacist “slave patrols” and a “law and order” paradigm that continues to haunt Black and Indigenous People of Color today.

Every day across the country, law enforcement agencies welcome a new cadre of officers who swear an oath not to a Governor, or a legislature, a Police Chief, Commissioner, or a political party, but to the United States Constitution. Yet, every year, thousands of Black and Indigenous People of Color lose their lives at the hands of law enforcement.

We cannot train or program our way out of this human rights crisis. We need to disrupt and shift power. What would it look like, and feel like, to shift power? To truly listen to and follow the leadership of the people most harmed by police brutality? To center our generational resilience? And in the words of Sendolo Diaminah, to “release our fear of power” while building our capacity to “be responsible with power”?

Report

Diversion Incarceration Trends Probation Sanctions January 12, 2023

Probation Violations as Drivers of Jail Incarceration in St. Louis County, Missouri

Beth M. Huebner, Lee Ann Slocum, Andrea Giuffre, Kimberly Kras, and Bobby Boxerman

Many have argued that we are in the era of mass probation, as more people are under probation supervision than under any other correctional sanction. Although there have been declines in the national probation population over the past decade, one in 84 adult US residents is currently on probation. Nationwide, local jail populations have also grown—from 184,000 in 1980 to 741,900 in 2019. The increased use of probation inflates the population at risk of subsequent confinement in jail or prison. Individuals who violate their probation, in some states, are detained in jail and await a hearing. Despite the growth in probation revocations and the increased use of jail stays as a response to technical violations, however, there is little evidence to suggest that short-term stays of incarceration reduce recidivism.

Adding to the growing rate of probation is the problem of racial disparity in incarceration. People of color are disproportionately represented among the probation population. In 2018, Black people represented 30% of the US probation population, twice their proportion in the national population. Further, almost half of all young Black men (24 to 32 years old) with no high school degree reported having been on probation at some point. Black individuals, particularly young men, are also more likely than White individuals to struggle on probation and to be given multiple conditions of supervision. Although there is evidence that Black individuals are more likely to have their probation revoked, less is known about how revocation to jail influences trajectories and outcomes for this group.

Jail stays also have deleterious effects in the short and long term. For example, Harding and colleagues found that short terms of jail incarceration resulting from technical violations suppressed the earnings of individuals by about 13% in the nine months after release from custody. The churn of multiple jail stays, even if short in length, also causes strain and instability among families, leaving them feeling hopeless under the constant eye of supervision. Yet, the unique needs of jail populations overall, and those of individuals who violate probation terms, are rarely considered in correctional reforms.

Additional Downloads

Report

Community Engagement Jail Populations Racial Disparities January 10, 2023

Over-Incarceration of Native Americans: Roots, Inequities, and Solutions

Desiree L. Fox, Ph.D., Ciara D. Hansen, Ph.D., Ann M. Miller, J.D.

Native people are disproportionately incarcerated in the United States. Several factors contribute: a history of federal oppression and efforts to erode Native culture, a series of federal laws that rejected tribal justice systems in place long before European contact, historical trauma that has a lasting impact on the physical and mental well-being of Native people, a complicated jurisdictional structure that pulls Native people further into justice involvement, and a deficiency of representation for the accused in tribal courts. Although people accused of crime in tribal courts are afforded the right to counsel, tribal governments are not constitutionally required to provide appointed counsel for the indigent. As a result, there are uncounseled convictions in tribal courts used against Native people in state and federal systems.

There are 574 federally recognized tribal governments in the United States, each with its own culture, sovereign government, justice system, and historical relationship with the United States government. For this reason, interventions meant to address over-incarceration of Native people should start at the tribal level. Tribes could impact disparity on a national level by providing supportive and restorative services for those involved in their own justice systems. Tribes could impact disparities by providing public defender services, in particular, holistic public defense that employs a restorative approach. A holistic model of public defense addresses the issues that contribute to people’s involvement in the criminal justice system and the collateral consequences to criminal charges and convictions. Providing services that address underlying needs results in improved life outcomes that predictably result in less criminal justice involvement. This article highlights the Tribal Defenders Office (TDO) for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes that has implemented holistic defense in a tribal setting.

Initially modeled after the Bronx Defenders, the Tribal Defenders holistic defense practice aligns with tribal values by going beyond the criminal case to view the accused as a whole person with a range of legal and social support needs that if left unmet will continue to push them back into the criminal justice system. Over the years, the Tribal Defenders’ team has worked to integrate into the community, listen to feedback from clients and the community, and refine the program accordingly. Through twelve years of integrated practice, TDO staff learned several lessons that have shaped their success: services come first, invest in culturally relevant research and services, listen to clients and the community, and adhere to cultural safety.

Although the article promotes holistic defense to the indigent as a solution to inequities facing justice-involved Native people, it also highlights other promising practices. Tribal systems have access to national organizations that support their efforts to address criminal justice challenges. There are tribal courts, victim services, probation departments, and reentry programs that have taken traditional, restorative principles and applied them in innovative ways to promote healing, wellness, and community safety.

Finding Our Voice to Reduce Native American Incarceration Across SJC Sites

By: Michaela Seiber, MPH

Community Engagement Racial Disparities November 21, 2022

November is Native American Heritage month. It gives a platform for Native people in the United States of America to share our culture, traditions, music, crafts, dance, and ways and concepts of life. It’s also an appropriate time to highlight the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in jails across the country while actively pursuing solutions. Some estimates suggest that Indigenous people are jailed at twice the rate of White people in the U.S. In the past, people in communities participating in the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) have spoken about how to address the disparity.

This blog is about a recent trip I took to Pima County, Arizona, from Minnehaha County in South Dakota to see how Pima County’s SJC initiative is working with the community to reduce incarceration and improve health outcomes.

I’m Executive Director of South Dakota Urban Indian Health (SDUIH), which recently joined Minnehaha County’s SJC team in 2021. We provide support for our Native American relatives impacted by the justice system. SDUIH is one of 41 Urban Indian Health Programs that operate under a Title V contract with the Indian Health Service to provide medical, behavioral health, and cultural health services to Natives living in urban settings throughout the country. We are also a 501c3 non-profit and able to pursue initiatives, grants, and programs specific to the communities we operate within, such as joining Minnehaha County’s SJC work. South Dakota is home to nine tribal nations, which make up part of the larger Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires).

Through my work with SJC, I am also part of the Wičhóyaŋke Network (WN), a convening of Indigenous leaders from both community and criminal justice systems. WN’s mission is to identify Indigenous community-led solutions and strategies that have successfully helped in lowering or eliminating racial disparities in community criminal justice systems related to the incarceration of Indigenous people, with the ultimate goal of disseminating that information for Indigenous communities nationwide to assist in Indigenous-led efforts to eliminate racial disparities.

Last week, I visited Tucson, AZ to see how Pima County’s SJC is working with the community to reduce incarceration and improve health outcomes. I was also able to visit and meet with leaders at the Tucson Indian Center during the same week, giving me the ability to see SJC work from both the systems perspective and from the perspective of the Native community in Pima County.

Tucson has two major tribal nations nearby, the Tohono O’odham and Pascua Yaqui. I visited both communities and met with tribal members to discuss the justice system. I visited the San Xavier Mission Market where local tribal food vendors set up and, of course, sampled some southwest style frybread (yum!) and browsed the jewelry vendors nearby. Both tribal communities have an abundance of programs and services available to Native relatives in the Tucson area.

During my visit, I saw an obvious desire for both the criminal justice systems players and community members to decrease jail populations and improve substance use and mental health services for Native people in their community. However, I also observed that the two groups seemed disconnected in their approaches toward their shared goals. This isn’t unique to Pima County, and it was somewhat comforting to know this problem exists beyond Minnehaha County. The criminal justice system folks were unaware of the existing programs and work within Native communities, and the Native community leaders had several questions about SJC programming. This prompted thoughts examining the root cause behind the prevalence of this problem for so many communities.

People representing and working within the courts, police departments, etc. often don’t understand why Native people aren’t represented in conversations identifying solutions for the Native community. The difficult truth is that the spaces where these conversations are taking place weren’t made for us, and often our thoughts and concerns are dismissed or met with hostility when we try to contribute.

We had a discussion within Wičhóyaŋke Network about the things we’ve all had to give up to be part of this work, and why it’s so hard to continue working with our criminal justice system counterparts. As Native leaders, we have to set aside or ignore so many pieces of ourselves to have a seat at the table of this work: the tears that come to my eyes in these meetings when I think of the hurt caused by these systems and feeling like a traitor; the endless questions I ask myself wondering whether I’m part of the problem because I’m sitting in these rooms. It’s hard to be the only one in these meetings asking, “How does this impact the Native community?” or “What does the data show for the Native community?” And while it is exhausting, I realize that if I’m not there, those questions won’t get asked—no one else will make uncomfortable statements about how we’re failing our Native relatives.

At the recent SJC convening in Atlanta, I was able to discuss these same things with relatives from San Francisco. I was comforted by the realization that many working on this project face these same feelings and have had to make these same concessions to improve the systems that have torn our communities apart. As Native people, it’s often easy to ignore the invitation or stay silent during the meetings because we don’t know where our voices fit. It’s often the safest thing to do but without our notable presence and hard questions, this work won’t lead to the change we need so our relatives can heal.

The visit to Pima County was incredibly meaningful and gave me insight into how to move forward with the Wičhóyaŋke Network, as well as a clearer vision for SDUIH’s place in Minnehaha County’s SJC work. Wopida tanka (many thanks)!