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Prosecutors Endorse Pell Grants for Prisoners

On Thursday, the nation’s largest organization for prosecutors endorsed an idea we touched on a few weeks ago. Let people in prison apply for federal grants toward higher education. Don’t cut them off completely. In the press release, the National District Attorney Association backs a federal bill that would restore eligibility for Pell grants to prisoners Read More

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Giving the Gift of Education

How’s this for an idea? Let’s reinstate Pell grants for people in prison. What are those? They are federal grants that help people pay for college who otherwise can’t. They require you to use the money for higher education and maintain satisfactory progress toward a degree. People in prison were eligible for them until 1994 but Read More

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New California Criminal Laws: Part One

Let’s get to it. We’ve already covered the big new bail law, which won’t go into effect until October 1. Here are three new laws effective January 1, 2019. Drunk driving will catch you an ignition-interlock device on your car. This is Senate Bill 1046. It amends the Vehicle Code to require most anyone who’s convicted of Read More

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The Federal First Step Act of 2018

Here’s more meat on the bones of the new sentencing law from last week. Earning credit toward early release. You can earn 10-15 days of credit for every thirty that you participate in certain programs. These may include work programs, academic classes, vocational training, trauma counseling, substance-abuse treatment, faith-based services, and family-building and parenting. The credits Read More

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On the Friday Before Christmas …

When all through the House, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse: Congress enacted a major change to federal sentencing law. It’s called the First Step Act, and you may have heard about it. Here’s a press release on it from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. What does it do? About ten things. Read More

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A New Day in the City of Brotherly Love

If you haven’t heard, the new district attorney of Philadelphia is a lifelong defense lawyer who used to sue the government for violating people’s civil rights. He even ran on a campaign against overcriminalization. It’s a pretty amazing thing. Now the city’s top prosecutor has put his money where his mouth was during the campaign. Read More

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Judge Regrets Sentencing Teen to Life Without Parole

Speaking of harsh penalties, how’s 241 years in prison for a 16-year-old boy? Well, it happened to this boy twenty years ago. The judge who sentenced him told him he’d die in prison. She told him he wouldn’t even be eligible for parole until 2091, when no one he knew would be alive, anyway. One can Read More

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They May Be Intelligent, But Are They Wise?

Speaking of fair shakes, here is a wise word of caution about the emerging, expanding use of computer programs to evaluate people in the justice system, whether at bail hearings, sentencings, or elsewhere. The author is a former software engineer at Facebook who’s now studying law at Harvard. Her point isn’t that we shouldn’t use or consult these programs, but Read More

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No Correlation Between Drug War and Use

According to an independent, well-regarded think tank, there is statistically no reason to think that we can reduce drug abuse by locking more people up. The nonprofit Pew Charitable Trusts spelled it out in a letter this summer to a federal commission that’s looking at ways to combat the widespread problem of opioid abuse. Its study, which drew on data Read More

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A Model Penal Code for the 21st Century

Charging decisions, which we wrote about last week, matter for many reasons. They drive plea bargains, and they affect sentencing. You file a felony, for example, so that the guy will plead to a misdemeanor without giving you much trouble. It happens all the time. Bad charging decisions, though, don’t just cause wrongful convictions or unjust sentences. They cause other consequences that Read More

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