Pick 6 (05/24/2014)

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Hello friends. We’re back with our weekly feature–Pick 6. Our Pick 6 consists of 6 informative, insightful reentry & criminal justice-related news articles and commentaries that we’ve been following throughout the week. We welcome your thoughts and feedback, so don’t be shy!

1.) Prisoners might get access to Pell grants for first time in two decades (PBS)

“The U.S. Department of Education is poised to announce a limited exemption to the federal ban on prisoners receiving Pell Grants to attend college while they are incarcerated. Correctional education experts and other sources said they expect the department to issue a waiver under the experimental sites program, which allows the feds to lift certain rules that govern aid programs in the spirit of experimentation.”

2.) Obama Just Announced a Plan to Restrict Police Use of Military Style Equipment (Mother Jones)

“On Monday, the White House announced a plan to set new restrictions on local police departments from obtaining military-style equipment from the federal government. The limitation on military gear is part of an ongoing effort to rebuild trust between community members and law enforcement officials following the unrest seen in Ferguson, Missouri, particularly the police response to protesters there.

The announcement is in response to a report put forth by a task force created by the president in December to address broken police relations, especially in minority communities, across the country. Banned items include wheeled-armored vehicles, battering rams, grenade launchers, and more.”

3.) In Texas, courts turn truancy cases into cash (Al Jazeera America)

“Failure to attend school has also become a revenue stream for Texas. In fiscal year 2014, the state assessed fines and court costs of $16.1 million for truancy convictions, even though 79.4 percent of cases that year involved economically disadvantaged students, according to an analysis by the Austin-based social and economic justice advocacy group Texas Appleseed. Yet all these prosecutions are doing little to improve overall school attendance rates. In Dallas County, which filed 25,495 truancy charges in 2013, the most of any other county in Texas, attendance has been steady over the last few years at about 95 percent. This is slightly higher than the 93 percent attendance reported by New York, which, like most other states, handles truancy as a civil matter in juvenile court.”

4.) Justice Reform in the Deep South (New York Times)

“It has been getting easier by the day for politicians to talk about fixing the nation’s broken criminal justice system. But when states in the Deep South, which have long had some of the country’s harshest penal systems, make significant sentencing and prison reforms, you know something has changed.”

5.) You Can’t Reform the Criminal Justice System by Cutting Costs (New Republic)

“The current bipartisan consensus on the need to pursue criminal justice reform has been heralded—again, and again, and again—as the long-awaited agreement that ends mass incarceration and its many ills: the incredible size and the exorbitant cost of the police and prison system; the qualities of discrimination and poverty that lead to arrests; and the preeminence of incarceration as social policy. Republicans and Democrats are finally uniting conservative and liberal values to cure a diseased system, a rot in the nation at large.

That’s the news, at least. The consensus may be bipartisan, but it’s not ideologically balanced. The language advocates use to describe the problems at hand and the nature of their proposed policy solutions demonstrate that this moment is far more concerned with mass than incarceration. Despite reports of meeting in the middle, we’re witnessing a liberal acquiescence: Nearly everything is phrased in conservative terms—cutting costs, saving funds, and minimizing the size of the system.”

6.) Vermont Abolishes Juvenile Life Without Parole (EJI)

“Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin yesterday signed into law a bill abolishing juvenile life without parole. Vermont is the latest state to pass legislation in response to Miller v. Alabama, the Supreme Court decision banning mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders.  HawaiiWest Virginia, DelawareWyoming, and Texas have eliminated death-in-prison sentences for children in recent years.”

+1) New Efforts to Keep the Mentally Ill Out of Jail (Pew Trusts)

+1) When a Psychologist Was in Charge of Jail (The Marshall Project)

Audio of the week) We Live Here: Navigating the criminal justice system with a public defender as our guide (Part 1) (St Louis Public Radio)

Report of the week) The Price of Jails: Measuring the Taxpayer Cost of Local Incarceration (Vera Institute)

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