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Community Courts

"We go to the root of the problems rather than just throwing them in jail," said the Community Justice Center's lone judge, Lillian Sing.

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Click here to read the full article in the Sacramento Bee.

Bipartisanship in Legal Reform

Politicians and policy makers are finally beginning to discuss reforming the legal system. For some the issue is the fact that the US imprisons its citizens at a rate that is five times higher than other Western nations. For others it's that the fact that the federal government spends nearly $7 billion imprisoning people. Unfortunately even with this issue being bipartisan it isn't getting anywhere in congress, so the federal system isn't changing. However,states suffering deficits are moving to reform their systems.

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What Is A Just and Fair Sentence?

In Norway, a mass murderer was recently sentenced to 21 years in prison. Norway uses a restorative sentencing model emphasizing healing for the victims, society and the convicted criminal. In the United States, we use a retributive sentencing model. This model emphasizes punishment fitting the crime ensuring that people are sentenced to prison for hundreds of years like Ajay Dev was.

Click here to read about the two models and which one helps reduce crime.

No More Extreme Sentences For California Youth

The California assembly recently passed a bill giving juvenile offenders serving life terms possible freedom. According to the senior attorney at the National Center for Youth Law, "They are more likely to rehabilitate than an adult". The California Supreme court told legislatures to prohibit juvenile prison sentences for non-homicide crimes without a meaningful chance for parole. In effect stopping the practice of "extreme" sentences that result in life in prison.

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Reforming Arson Investigations

The Innocence Project and the Texas State Fire Marshall's Office are reviewing arson cases in which someone was convicted of a crime. As of now there are about 900 people serving time inTexas prisons for arson. One of the issues with arson convictions is that very few people are properly trained to investigate arson.

To read more on this story, click here.

Pennsylvania Prison Reform

We are now seeing a whole new direction for housing non-violent offenders due to the cost of incarceration and difficulties with state budgets.. Pennsylvania's Criminal Justice Reform act will save the state's taxpayers up to $370 million by emphasizing rehabilitation and community based facilities for it's non-violent offenders. The reforms include counseling for drug and alcohol abuse and educational and vocational education. 

Click here to read the full article on

The Veritas Initiative

The Veritas Initiative is a watchdog entity within the Northern California Innocence Project. Their goal is to advance data-driven reform in the Justice System. In 2010 the most extensive reports on misconduct in the state of California in both state and federal courts was released by this organization. Their web site has news and resources regarding exonerations and causes of wrongful convictions.

Their web address is:

Legal Reform in Texas

In 2010 the state of Texas had over 43 exonerations. These wrongful convictions show deep problems are at the core of the justice system. Texas, like most states has spent large amounts of taxpayer dollars building prisons and incarcerating it's citizens. This tough on crime mentality fails to ensure that only the guilty are sent to prison. Texas finally began to look into what is causing all of these wrongful convictions. 

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Justice Sandra Day O'Connor Wants to Stop Politicizing Judges

Retired Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor is part of a group of judges, politicians, and lawyers on a mission to keep the judicial branch independent from politics. Their goal is to prevent judges from becoming "politicians in robes". They hope to fight judicial corruption by changing the process from state judicial elections to using a merit system. This will prevent the perception of corruption that campaign money can cause. 

To read the full article read click here.

Supreme Court Rules Fair Sentencing Act Is Retroactive

The U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Fair Sentencing Act is retroactive. Brad R. Schlesinger for (Unfiltered Policitcal News) writes, "The issue presented was whether the Fair Sentencing Act’s (the “FSA”) new, lower mandatory minimums apply to defendants whose crack offenses were committed prior to the passing of the FSA, but sentenced after the law passed. In a victory for criminal justice and sentencing reform, the Court sided 5-4 with the defendants, overturning the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and holding that the FSA does in fact apply to such defendants sentenced post-FSA for pre-FSA crimes. Writing the majority opinion for the Court was Justice Breyer, joined by Sotomayor, Kagan, Ginsburg, and Kennedy; while Scalia, Roberts, Alito, and Thomas dissented."

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Our Overcrowded Prisons

The April 22, 2012 CBS story titled The Cost of a Nation of Incarceration shows the conditions of overcrowding in this countries’ prisons. In California the overcrowding was so extensive the U.S. Supreme Court labeled it “cruel and unusual punishment”. One wonders how this can happen when the crime rate has dropped over 40% during the last 20 years.

To read or listen to the story click here.

National Uniform Disclosure Standards

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced a bi-partisan bill to help standardize disclosure laws throughout the country. Right now there are 96 different policies when it comes to this vital issue. In her bill, S 2197 federal prosecutors would have to make early disclosure of favorable evidence regardless of whether the evidence is seen as material to the case. Judges would have a broad range of remedies of enforcement, including postponing or adjourning the proceedings, excluding or limiting testimony or evidence, ordering a new trial, or dismissing the case with or without prejudice. Unfortunately this bill may not pass without your support. Contact your senator and ask them to help pass this bill.

Click here to read the bill.