What looks to be a remarkable program is on tap for this Friday at the ASU Law School.

Titled “Dialogues on Detention: Applying Lessons from Criminal Justice Reform to the Immigration Detention System,” it is part of the Public Dialogue Series of advocacy group Human Rights First. (CLE credit may be available.)

Discussions will focus on: gaps in legal representation, alternatives to detention, privatization; and conditions of detention. Panelists also will explore whether lessons we have learned from criminal justice reform can inform immigration detention reform.

Here is more information about the Friday event:

Speakers include:

  • Dora Schriro, former director of the Arizona Department of Corrections
  • Lindsay Marshall, Executive Director, Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project
  • Arizona State Representative John Kavanagh (R-8)
  • Dodie Ledbetter, Deputy Court Administrator and former Detention Director for the Pima County Juvenile Court Center (Tucson)
  • Victoria Lopez, ACLU Arizona
  • Milagros Cisneros, Assistant Federal Public Defender, District of Arizona
  • Andy Silverman, Joseph M. Livermore Professor of Law and Director of Clinical Programs, University of Arizona James E. Rodgers College of Law

You may register here. More detail on the Dialogues on Detention Series is available here.

Helpfully, organizers also provide a list of reading materials related to the dialogues.

On this Change of Venue Friday, let’s take a look at our corrections system, through the eyes of an artist.

“It’s not just black and white” is open now through May at the ASU Art Museum in Tempe. It features the work of Gregory Sale.

As the site says:

It’s not just black and white begins with the current state of corrections in the U.S. and Arizona, most specifically Maricopa County, and continues to develop over the course of the artist’s three-month residency.

Gregory Sale. It's not just black and white. Photo by Chris Santa Maria.

The site provides some photos of the opening-night event, as well as more detail on pre-reception activities:

The Arizona State University Art Museum is on Mill Avenue at 10th Street in Tempe. Here is a map:

Have a great weekend.

I just flew in from New York, and boy, are my arms … cold.

As I reported last week, I was attending a conference on criminal justice. It was terrific, but more on that later.

The unfortunate part of my trip was that it caused me to miss a potentially significant criminal justice event right here in Arizona.

On Tuesday, February 1, the Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice held a press conference to roll out its new report on criminal sentencing reform.

The New York conference I attended earlier this week touched on that topic quite a bit, and we will have an article on sentencing in Arizona Attorney Magazine in the coming months. There, we’ll also look at the AACJ’s proposals in more detail, as well as responses from many in the system.

Calls for change are perennial (even in Arizona). But what may make 2011 different is a budget crisis that is dire. Nationwide, statehouses are confronted by an array of awful choices. Decisions that reduce the corrections line item may begin to look attractive.

Arizona may be different. I’ve spoken to more than one state leader who says that the economic situation will have to be far, far worse before state legislators would consider reducing prison sentence lengths or aggravating circumstances that lead to (more expensive) prison time.

But a new movement of conservatives who seek sentencing reform may be the elephant’s nose under the tent. The Right on Crime project urges changes that will save states many resources. Will it have an effect here? We’ll examine that in our story.

You can read more about the AACJ report (and read the report itself) here

Want to read more about the Right on Crime movement? Click here.

And here is an Arizona Republic story on Tuesday’s presser on the Legislature’s lawn.

John Jay College of Criminal Justice logo 2014About two years ago, I attended a focused two-day seminar on incarceration-and-release issues. The goal of the host organization—the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York—was to educate journalists with legal “beats” more about prison and sentencing topics.

Nevada Chief Justice James Hardesty

It was held in Reno, Nevada, and I was pleased to have been invited. The panel topics and the speakers were well selected and compelling. And, before you think otherwise, the speakers were not all from one-side of the street. There was much disagreement, and we were not just subjected to “all blue” or “all red” viewpoints. In fact, among the panelists (and in attendance for the entire conference) were the Chief Justice of the Nevada Supreme Court, James Hardesty, and the Director the Nevada Department of Corrections, Howard Skolnik. Not a softie in the bunch.

Nevada Prisons Chief Howard Skolnik

Since then, Americans have been inundated with incarceration and release coverage. Maybe it’s the bad economy forcing difficult choices. Or maybe it’s a growing unease at the massive numbers of our citizens who are behind bars.

We cover the topic occasionally. For instance, earlier this year we wrote about a new book, Sunbelt Justice, that dissects Arizona’s incarceration system.

But the topic is an incendiary one. We got a letter of strong dislike for our efforts.

Today, another interesting study was released suggesting there may be solutions afoot (see release below). And the report is available online here.

June 2, 2010

CONTACT: Adam Ratliff, aratliff@justicepolicy.org, (202) 558-7974 x306 /
Jason Fenster, jfenster@justicepolicy.org, (202) 558-7974 x300


States can safely reduce prison populations and save money, new brief says

Reducing prison populations and maintaining public safety can both be accomplished while allowing state taxpayers to save money with more effective programs, group says. 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — States should use innovative and evidence-based strategies to trim their prison populations, reduce the likelihood that a released person will return to prison and send fewer people to prison in the first place according to research released today by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI). With many states facing budget crises, important decisions are being made about where money will and will not be spent. JPI found that increasing opportunities for parole and improving parole release decisions, improving parole supervision and ensuring access to support and treatment services are cost-effective means of cutting extraneous spending while maintaining public safety. In FY2008, states spent $52 billion on corrections, money that could be spent on infrastructure, education, housing and job creation, the group says.

“Increasing the availability of parole and making better decisions about who is released is smart policy,” said Tracy Velázquez, executive director of JPI. “Options such as medical parole and geriatric release would yield tremendous monetary benefits, ensure people receive the services they need and would not be a detriment to public safety. States could in turn refocus savings toward crucial social services to help prevent people from entering prison in the first place.”

According to For Immediate Release: How to Safely Reduce Prison Populations and Support People Returning to Their Communities released today by JPI, incarceration costs significantly less than parole supervision and some states are using innovative methods of supervision that are yielding positive results. As spending more time in prison does not equate to more public safety, releasing people early with appropriate supervision can be an effective way of reducing prison populations.

Velázquez added, “The notion that there is a public safety trade-off when shifting public dollars from prisons to positive, pro-social investments is false and has contributed to destructive policies that have given the United States the world’s largest incarceration rate and continue to disproportionately impact communities of color. Releasing people deemed ‘low risk’ to community supervision and providing adequate treatment and support services will improve outcomes and strengthen families and communities.”

The Justice Policy Institute (JPI) is a Washington, D.C.-based organization dedicated to reducing society’s use of incarceration and promoting just and effective social policies.

To read JPI’s report, For Immediate Release CLICK HERE. For other analysis on safe, effective means of saving money and ensuring public safety, please visit our website at www.justicepolicy.org.