The Race to Incarcerate: A Country of Inmates

by Kristen Pavón

Friends! I leave you with this post until next week — I have to pick up my already-cooked, just-gotta-heat-it-up-tomorrow thanksgiving dinner and get ready to pick up my dad at the airport (read: clean the house!)!

Have a safe and happy holiday.  :)

On Monday, the New York Times ran a piece titled “A Country of Inmates” that detailed our country’s mass incarceration epidemic.

This is an issue that I’m passionate about because it disproportionately affects minorities and consequently trickles down and affects entire communities. Overall, the article is a good read, especially if you have no familiarity with incarceration policies. Here are a few excerpts:

The United States has 2.3 million people behind bars, almost one in every 100 Americans. The U.S. prison population has more than doubled over the past 15 years, and one in nine black children has a parent in jail.

Proportionally, the United States has four times as many prisoners as Israel, six times as many as Canada or China, eight times as many as Germany and 13 times as many as Japan.

The prison explosion hasn’t been driven by an increase in crime. In fact, the crime rate, notably for violent offenses, is dropping across the United States, a phenomenon that began about 20 years ago.

The latest F.B.I. figures show that murder, rape and robberies have fallen to an almost half-century low; to be sure, they remain higher than in other major industrialized countries.

Read more here.

However, if you’re interested in learning more (and I hope you are), I recommend reading Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. I found it to be a compelling read full of statistics and information about our War on Drugs and the skyrocketing rate of incarceration in the U.S.

I’m always up for  a chat about mass incarceration — let me know what you think!

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Access to Justice Issues Coming to a Head & a Broader Perspective

by Kristen Pavón

As if we needed more confirmation that there is an access to justice crisis in our nation, there seems to be more press coverage about the subject than ever.

I wonder if because the journalists are taking up the issue so vehemently (presumably because the public cares about the issue, or at least should care), will the lawmakers follow suit — will they hear us?

Today, this story ran in New York — For More and More Low-Income New Yorkers, Civil Legal Services Are Just Out of Reach.

Last week, out of Baltimore– At 100th anniversary, Md. Legal Aid seeing record caseload.

In Nebraska — More Nebraskans need legal aid services

In Phoenix — Lawyers say increased use of do-it-yourself legal services risky

From the New York Times– Legal Assistance in Civil Cases Under Growing Threat

From Center of Public Integrity — HUD cuts to devastate mortgage counseling agencies across nation

From HuffPost — Could More Public-Interest Lawyers in D.C. Help Prevent Domestic Tragedies?

You get my point. I only hope that some viable solutions are found created.

Looking more broadly, a similar public debate about the desperate need for legal aid funding and access-to-justice solutions is stirring in the U.K., Ireland, Lebanon, Laos and other countries.

Here are few of the recent headlines from around the world:

U.K. — Will legal aid changes limit access to justice?Legal aid threatened by coalition plans

Lebanon — Lack of state-funded legal aid hampers justice

Laos — Laos needs help developing legal aid

Ghana — Legal Aid Scheme urged to seek for further support

Tanzania — CJ identifies flaws in Constitution

Interesting.

So, here are a couple of questions I have… Can we look abroad for solutions to our access to justice crisis? How, if at all, does our access to justice crisis affect other countries’ justice issues?

Thoughts?

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