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Citizen Brief:  Policing-Justice-Legal-Prison System

The war on drugs and a biased legal system

Justice  and the Constitution 


Adam Benforado | Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice
Recorded 6/30/2015
Listen to MP3 audio

Drexel University law professor Adam Benforado’s research and expertise in cognitive psychology seeks to uncover the subtly hidden ways our legal system is affected by the vast and intricate architectures of our mental processes and prejudices. In addition to publishing scholarly articles on this subject in nearly a dozen legal and scientific journals, Benforado’s op-eds, essays, and letters have appeared in thePhiladelphia Inquirer, The Washington Post, and the New York Times, among a bevy of other periodicals. Unfair exposes the psychological inequities that undermine the American criminal justice system and proposes overhauls that will uphold our ideals and protect our weakest citizens.


The U.S. federal prison population has increased almost 790 percent since 1980 from about 25,000 inmates to 219,000 in 2012, according to a new Congressional Research report. Federal prisons make up the largest component of a U.S.prison system that dwarfs all others in the world. The agency tasked with providing policy analysis to Congress attributes the spike to a host of tough-on-crime reforms that include draconian mandatory minimum sentences, the elimination of parole for any federal crime committed after 1987, and increasing enforcement by federal officials.

Research by the Urban Institute found that increases in expected time served contributed to half of the prison population growth between 1998 and 2010. The increase in amount of time inmates were expected to serve was probably partially the result of inmates receiving longer sentences and partially the result of inmates being required to serve approximately 85% of their sentences after Congress eliminated parole for federal prisoners.



John Oliver explains why America’s bail system is better for the reality tv industry than it is for the justice system.

The Case Against Cash Bail NewYorker August, 2015


A Letter to Pope Francis


You are about to enter Philadelphia’s largest jail. Here is what you should know.


The Prison Problem (NYTimes David Brooks, Sept 29,15)


From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime Professor Elizabeth Hinton talked about her book From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America, in which she traces the rise of incarceration in America.

Why the Innocent Plead Guilty

Aug 12th, 2015

The National Constitution Center's Jeffrey Rosen is joined by federal judges Jed Rakoff and Michael Baylson to debate the public misconceptions and systemic failings of America’s criminal justice system.

Reshaping Policing For The 21st Century

Streamed live on Feb 21, 2017

Barry Friedman, director of the Policing Project at NYU School of Law and author of the new book Unwarranted, explores with other experts the national conversation around the changing role of police — from neighborhood beat cops to NSA analysts.

The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences (2014)


Our Awful Prisons: How They Can Be Changed


How did we get to the point where a nineteen-year-old who has done nothing violent can be put away for almost as long as he has lived, where prisons break up millions of families, and where we have a larger proportion of our people incarcerated than any other country in the world, even Putin’s Russia? We have so many prisoners that the American unemployment rate for men would be 2 percent higher (and 8 percent higher for black men) if they were all suddenly let out. Our jails are so packed that through the website wardens and sheriffs can look for space in other facilities if their own is full. Arizona and California have even considered plans to house inmates in Mexico, where costs are lower.

Mass Incarceration, Visualized

Sep 11, 2015 | 34 videos 


Video by The Atlantic

In this animated interview, the sociologist Bruce Western explains the current inevitability of prison for certain demographics of young black men and how it's become a normal life event. "We've chosen the response of the deprivation of liberty for a historically aggrieved group, whose liberty in the United States was never firmly established to begin with," Western says. In The Atlantic's upcoming October cover story, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the impact of mass incarceration on the black family. You can read the full story on September 15, 2015.

Authors: Jackie Lay, Bruce Western, Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg, Ta-Nehisi Coates

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