JPI Newsletter: Bail Month, Tackling Virginia's Harsh Justice Policies and More

A Message from the Executive Director
Fifteen years after our founding, JPI continues to be a leader in promoting an alternative vision to our current reliance on incarceration and the justice system.  

We plan to finish our 15th year with a bang! Throughout September, we will examine the problems of the use of money bail and bail bonding, with several research reports and events. Around the office, we're calling it "Bailtember," or "Septembail." But either way, next month will be JPI Bail Month.

In October, we will help recognize Juvenile Justice Month with an event focused on the D.C. juvenile justice system as it relates to education, children's welfare, mental and employment highlighting our four briefs on those issues.   

As Election Day and the close of the year approaches, we will help our partners with their disenfranchisement work and look to you for continued support. We will also unveil a special anniversary project as we complete this year, so please be stay tuned and help us spread the word.

Tracy Velázquez,
JPI Executive Director 

In This Issue:
JPI Names September Bail Month
Reforming in New Frontiers: Virginia
JPI Partners with Fillmmakers to Produce Documentary
JPI Expertise on the Road
JPI Juvenile Justice Series Continues
Support our Work
Justice in Two Supreme Court Decisions
JPI Soros Fellow Continues in Justice Reform
Fifteen Years of Reform Reveals "Incarceration Generation"
JPI Names September Bail Month

JPI-bail logo3JPI Names September Bail Month
We are very excited to devote the entire month of September to bail. The U.S. is one of only two countries that allows bail bonding, and the use of money to determine whether someone should be released while awaiting trial, has serious impacts on communities, public safety, and jail populations.

Throughout bail month JPI will host a national conference call with the National Association of Criminal Defense lawyers on the ills of bail; hold a brown bag lunch at the Open Society Institute in Washington, DC for local advocates and practitioners and impacted people in the field;  and host two evening panel discussions - one in Washington, DC and one in Baltimore - highlighting the three reports that we are publishing on commercial and money bail, and their impact on communities.

Please spread the word and get ready to advocate on your listserves, social networks and through the media.

RSVP now for our September 27, event, "The High Price of Bail." 

JPI Partners with Fillmmakers to Produce Documentary

The MacArthur Foundation, a supporter of independently produced film and video for more than 30 years, recently announced 13 grants totaling more than $1.6 million for documentary film projects. The documentaries address a range of important issues, including justice reform, global conservation and immigration.

JPI has partnered with filmmakers Julie Janata and John Lucas to produce "Cooler Bandits," a film that examines the impact of mandatory sentencing laws and long-term incarceration. It focuses on four friends, who as teens in 1991, committed a series of robberies and received sentences up to 500 years. JPI will coordinate outreach, which will include convenings and companion pieces to the film, including a study guide and fact sheets to further explain sentencing policies and their effects on communities.

"MacArthur's media grantmaking supports work that combines exceptional storytelling with in-depth journalism to illuminate important yet often under-reported topics," said Kathy Im, MacArthur Director for Media, Culture, and Special Initiatives. "This year's film grantees, who include nominees and winners of the Academy Award, Emmy Award, and other prestigious honors, bring fresh perspective to domestic and international social issues through approachable, engaging stories."  

Of the 13 film projects, two others focus on justice reform, including "The Undocumented," a documentary examining a little-known consequence of U.S. immigration policy and "Rank & Race: Change at a California Prison," about institutionalized racial segregation in prisons.

Click here to see a video to see a trailer of "Cooler Bandits."

Reforming in New Frontiers: Virginia

In July, JPI received funding from the Public Welfare Foundation to focus on justice reform in Virginia. We have been meeting with groups in the state, and held a focus group of stakeholders to look at pretrial justice issues in the Commonwealth. We also partnered with Grassroots Leadership and others to bring media attention to the possible privatization of Virginia's civil commitment facility. JPI will be working with state advocates to develop policy objectives to pursue.

"Certainly, parole will be an issue we look at," said Keith Wallington, JPI's project manager, who is helping plan JPI's Virginia work, having successfully coordinated our Maryland efforts for several years.  "Less than three percent of people eligible for parole are being released, which may be the lowest rate in the country."  

JPI Expertise on the Road

In addition to publishing reports and using traditional and social media to advance criminal justice reform, JPI brought our expertise and vision to meetings and conferences across the country.

Executive Director Tracy Velázquez spoke before the Maryland State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Human Rights on how the state can reduce its reliance on incarceration and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the justice system. She also shared JPI's perspective on private prisons at the Children's Defense Fund national conference;  consulted with the U.S. Department of Justice and other U.S. agencies, on implementation of recommendations for the United Nations' universal periodic review on human rights;  and participated in the first hearing for the Racial Justice Initiative's Public Documentation Project, to discuss ways that failures of schools contribute to overuse of the juvenile justice system. Tracy also participated in two convenings around broader inclusion of victim and victim advocates and their perspectives in justice reform work.

"JPI has done some amazing work in the past few years," she said. "It's a privilege to be able to share it with others in ways that will help create meaningful changes in our social and justice systems."

Senior Research Associate, Spike Bradford, who joined JPI in the spring, attended the National Juvenile Justice Network's (NJJN) 10th Annual Forum in Austin, Texas. The forum included skill-building activities and substantive panels on pathways to desistance, mental health probation, the school-to-prison pipeline, and partnering with victims. Spike is using what he learned for an upcoming research report on juvenile justice fiscal realignment. The study will look at the efforts of states to divert juvenile detention and services from the state level to counties and local jurisdictions.

Grants and Research Coordinator Paul Ashton traveled to New Brunswick, NJ for to participate in the Commercial Food Workers Union panel discussion on privatization presenting our research findings from "Gaming the System," and talked about the larger impact of private prisons on mass incarceration. He also co-facilitated a standing-room only workshop on how to research the political influence of private prisons, the impact of private prisons on communities and how people can take action to fight against prison privatization in their communities.

Communications Associate Adwoa Masozi, who joined JPI in the summer, traveled to Providence, Rhode Island, for the NetRoots Nation Conference on social media and blogging, and this fall Communications Director Zerline Hughes heads for Hollywood -- Culver City, Calif. to be exact -- to work with Brave New Foundation for its first social media boot camp, in an effort to learn how to make advocacy video projects go viral.

JPI Juvenile Justice Series Continues

We released Mindful of the Consequences: How Improving the Mental Health of D.C. Youth Benefits the District, our third in a four-part D.C.-focused series examining education, employment, mental health and child welfare from a juvenile justice perspective. Hear Mindful of the Consequences author, Dr. Melissa Neal, talk about why the D.C. government's hand in criminalizing youth in need of comprehensive emotional and mental support services.

Our final report on child welfare will be released in October during juvenile justice month. We will re-release the entire series during a special community event in Washington, DC on October 11. Save the date and let us know if there are some local DC organizations and individuals that are interested in attending.

Support our Work

The Justice Policy Institute promotes well-being and justice for people in communities nationwide. Make a contribution to the Justice Policy Institute today, and demonstrate your commitment to reducing society's reliance on incarceration.

Your gift helps us to research emerging issues, convert our findings into reform, and remain autonomous.  

Justice in Two Supreme Court Decisions 

In June we witnessed two significant Supreme Court rulings. The first ruling found it unconstitutional to sentence minors to life without parole. This decision requires lower courts to conduct new sentencing hearings where judges will have to consider children's age, life circumstances, and other mitigating factors. However, there are still thousands of others who were sentenced as minors and are being  denied meaningful opportunities for parole.  

In Maryland we also saw an end to prison-gerrymandering by the court upholding the "No Representation Without Population Act." While this is an important reform victory, this is only the beginning. The Maryland Supreme Court decision demonstrates that states are not powerless in fixing this problem. Peter Wagner, Prison Policy Initiative director, explains "... the Census is released every 10 years and it takes that long to amass the data. We've only 8 years left. Our challenge now is to keep the pressure on states to adopt the NRWPA while working to get the Census Bureau to agree to count incarcerated people in their legal residences before it's too late." Interested in learning more? Click here.

Learn how prison-gerrymandering works in this short video.  

JPI Soros Fellow Continues in Justice Reform

The Justice Policy Institute served as host organization for Soros-OSI Senior Justice Fellow (2010-2012) Guy Terrill Gambill, the first Justice Fellow to focus on justice alternatives for veterans for the Open Society Institute's Justice Programs during the course of its 15-year history. JPI's popular veterans series was Guy's brainchild.  

Guy continues his work on alternatives to incarceration for veterans, including collaboration with Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National GAINS Center and assisting in the development of a national media kit for veterans with those agencies.  

Also in February, Guy launched a new web-based justice resource entitled Gambill on Justice. The site offers a very in-depth set of on-line references pertinent to veterans-in-justice. 

Fifteen Years of Reform Reveals "Incarceration Generation"

As part of our activities commemorating 15 years of work in criminal justice reform, JPI is putting together a book entitled "Incarceration Generation" showing trends in criminal justice and reform efforts over the past 30 years. We are gathering remarks from experts, advocates, and people who have been impacted by the system to highlight both the good that has been achieved and the potential for more work to be accomplished in the years to come. We look forward to presenting a project that shows a concise and compelling history of the justice system and the impact of our work and the work of our partners in reducing the dependence on incarceration and punitive approaches in the U.S.

Our next newsletter will include information for our 15th Anniversary-Release party in the coming months.