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New Book by Leap Portrays the Struggles of Women After Incarceration

A new book by Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap portrays the daily struggles of women returning to life after incarceration and proposes concrete solutions to the problems they face. “Entry Lessons: The Stories of Women Fighting for Their Place, Their Children, and Their Futures After Incarceration,” published by Beacon Press, draws on oral histories, interviews, embedded observation and extensive research conducted by Leap, an anthropologist who specializes in criminal justice and prison reform. At the end of 2019, women comprised the fastest-growing population within the U.S. criminal justice system, yet the impact of their journey — both on their own lives and on the lives of their children and families — is only beginning to be documented, Leap writes. “Entry Lessons” explores the traumas girls and women suffer, followed by the particular challenges they face in the criminal justice system, in incarceration and throughout their reentry into society. Leap includes several future-facing chapters that call for structural change through the development of meaningful programs and policies that end the cycles of abuse and trauma in the lives of women. In May, some of the women whose stories were shared in “Entry Lessons” appeared with Leap at a reception and book-signing at the UCLA Fowler Museum Courtyard, hosed by UCLA Luskin Social Welfare and Beacon Press.

View more photos from the book reception on Flickr.


 

Heed the Data Behind Criminal Justice Measures, Leap Says

Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap spoke to the San Francisco Chronicle about decisions awaiting the city’s next top prosecutor after the recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin. During his time in office, Boudin changed policies relating to cash bail, charging minors as adults and California’s “three strikes” law, among other reforms. Leap, an expert on gangs, criminal justice and prison reform, pointed to research on the effectiveness of different approaches to deterring crime. For example, there is little research to back up the claim that cash bail provides an incentive for people to return to court so they don’t forfeit what they paid. In addition, the use of gang enhancements, which can add time to defendants’ sentences if they are proven to have been motivated by gang ties, are ineffective and do nothing to address the causes of crime, she said. “We have no accountability for how this is done — no research studies, no nothing,” Leap said.

Much at Stake in State Attorney General’s Race, Diaz Says

Founding Director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative Sonja Diaz was featured in a Los Angeles Times article about the California attorney general’s race. In the June primary, voters will choose from the liberal incumbent, Rob Bonta, who was appointed to the job last year, and four other candidates, all with differing views on crime and criminal justice reform. The election will be held as voters are expressing heightened fears about public safety. Diaz explained that the attorney general’s job expands far beyond crime; the Department of Justice oversees the enforcement of environmental and housing laws and runs a civil rights division. “Crime is part of the job, not all of the job,” Diaz said. “The other part of the job is really defending and upholding not only our state Constitution but California’s values at a really important time in our nation’s history.”


Yaroslavsky on Newsom’s Message to California

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to CBS2 News ahead of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2022 State of the State address. Californians are concerned about pressing issues including homelessness, public safety and criminal justice reform, Yaroslavsky said. “The average person does not see the progress that’s been made, and I think that’s what the governor has to address,” he said. On the state’s response to COVID-19, “There’s a lot that went right with it just as there was a lot that went wrong with it. He ought to thank the people of California for what they’ve done to put this, so far, in the rear-view mirror.” Newsom survived a recall attempt last year and is running for re-election. Yarsoslavsky commented, “Now people are asking the question, ‘What are you going to do going forward? What’s your plan? You’re asking us to re-up you for another four-year contract. What are you promising and what can you deliver?’ ”


 

Weisburst on Impact of Expanding Police Forces

An article in the College Fix highlighted research co-authored by Assistant Professor of Public Policy Emily Weisburst on how increasing the size of a police force affects crime and arrest rates. The researchers found that the hiring of an additional 10 to 17 full-time police officers prevented one new homicide per year — a decline that’s twice as large for Black victims in per capita terms. Yet with each extra officer came seven to 22 new low-level arrests for offenses such as liquor violations and drug possession. The research team analyzed police employment data for 242 U.S. cities with populations greater than 50,000 over a 38-year period. “This study provides an estimate of the historical trade-offs of investments in law enforcement and, critically, the resulting implications for communities of color,” the authors said. The findings, first published in a December 2020 working paper, will appear in a forthcoming issue of American Economic Review: Insights. 


 

Abrams Book Compiles Global Research on Child Imprisonment

A new book co-edited by Professor Laura Abrams, chair of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare, seeks to educate students, scholars and policymakers about the role of incarceration in young people’s lives. “The Palgrave International Handbook of Youth Imprisonment” compiles research from dozens of scholars from around the world on cross-cutting themes including the conditions of confinement, gender/sexuality and identity, juvenile facility staff, young people’s experiences in adult prisons, and new models and perspectives on juvenile imprisonment. “Numerous children are imprisoned across the globe in deplorable conditions, despite international legal conventions which suggest that children should be detained only as a last resort,” write Abrams and co-editor Alexandra Cox of the University of Essex. In addition to facing lengthy terms of imprisonment, a substantial number of children are exposed to abuse and violence in custody, poor health and mental health care, and a lack of access to educational, vocational and training opportunities. Some nations, however, have instituted reforms that have greatly decreased the number of children held in confinement. The handbook offers far-flung criminal justice systems the opportunity to learn from one another: “In this volume, we bring together views from a wide variety of countries and contexts to present the most recent cutting-edge research on youth imprisonment that has the potential to shape how the field can create better systems of care for all young people in conflict with the law.”


 

A Spotlight on Community Policing Research

A USA Today opinion piece written by former Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck and prominent civil rights lawyer Connie Rice highlighted research on community policing led by Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap. Beck and Rice were part of a team that launched Los Angeles’ Community Safety Partnership (CSP), which they described as a “ ‘whole of community’ alternative to paramilitary enforcement that changes neighborhood conditions to boost safety, build trust, cut police use of force and drop violent crime with fewer arrests.” After conducting an extensive independent review of the program, Leap’s team concluded that with CSP,  “the community feels protected and strengthened.” Beck and Rice wrote that Americans want policing that is holistic, racially fair and effective, but that true criminal justice reform is blocked by a lack of political will to dismantle the “labyrinth of exclusion” created by pervasive inequalities in the nation’s systems of employment, health, wealth, education, housing and justice.


 

Activating Justice Through a 21st Century Latinx Lens UCLA co-hosts a dialogue featuring leading Latinx voices with the goal of sparking a full transformation of the criminal legal system 

By Kacey Bonner

What would our criminal legal system look like if it was truly designed to reduce harm, advance public safety and end America’s legacy as the world’s leading incarcerator?

That was the question on everyone’s mind as leading Latinx elected officials, advocates, academics and media personalities convened to grapple with the issue of criminal justice — a topic of intense national debate.

Hosted by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI), LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the Drug Policy Alliance and the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, the May 13-14 convening “Advancing Criminal Justice Reform Through a 21st Century Latinx Lens” had several goals: creating greater visibility of Latinos within the justice reform movement; identifying opportunities to build solidarity with other communities most impacted by the criminal legal system; and advancing transformative policy focused on justice rather than punishment.

“For too long, Latinos have been left out of the criminal justice conversation, even though we are the second most negatively impacted group by numbers behind Black people when it comes to our criminal legal systems,” said Sonja Diaz, founding director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative.

With conversations led by faculty experts such as UCLA Law Professor Jennifer Chacón, over 1,000 participants tuned in to hear from a multiracial cadre of 40 speakers covering topics including ending youth incarceration, defunding the police, and the intersection of the criminal legal and immigration systems – all through a Latinx lens.

Speakers including journalist Maria Hinojosa and author Julissa Arce led lively discussions about the opportunity to create more truthful and inclusive narratives in the criminal justice space and develop tailored solutions that address the underlying structural and systemic deficiencies that drive people to engage in harmful acts.

“It was so exciting to see this come together with so many brilliant people who were able to bring fresh perspective on the issue, the challenges and opportunities before us and how we can work in solidarity across race and experience to achieve common goals that make our communities safer and healthier,” said LPPI fellow Paula Nazario, one of the lead organizers of the convening. A UCLA graduate, Nazario is now pursuing her master of public policy at UCLA Luskin.

The event’s opening plenary session included Kelly Lytle-Hernández, a professor of history, African American studies and urban planning at UCLA. Lytle-Hernández gave attendees key insight into the impacts of the criminal legal system on Latinos, the structural racism propping up the system of incarceration and how the criminalization of immigrants is working to expand systems of mass incarceration.

Breakout sessions then enabled attendees to think about how they can demand better data that creates a clearer picture of the challenges and opportunities ahead and how Latino-facing organizations — both within and outside the justice reform space — can work together to create broad change.

Throughout the convening, conversation returned to the immense data and knowledge gap that obscures the true impact of the criminal legal system on Latinx individuals, families and communities. If this gap persists, there is a risk of creating solutions that fail to address challenges unique to Latinos who are systems-impacted and perpetuating inequities that exist in our current criminal legal system.

A conversation with Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel of Latino Justice PRLDEF, closed the two-day meeting. Cartagena said that, while the U.S. criminal legal system hasn’t changed much in the past five decades, it is on the precipice of big change — change made possible by communities that see an unprecedented opportunity to fundamentally transform systems of justice.

“We cannot lose sight of the fact that there have been amazing opportunities for organizing people around truth, and for having that truth talk to power,” Cartagena said.

“I think we’re stronger than ever to actually have conversations about dismantling systems, about what it means to invest in our communities in different ways and to think outside of every box at every corner so we can get things done.”

 

Latino USA’s Maria Hinojosa moderates the opening plenary session with podcast host David Luis “Suave” Gonzalez, author Julissa Arce, District Court Judge Natalia Cornelio and UCLA Professor Kelly Lytle-Hernández.

Jonathan Jayes-Greene of the Marguerite Casey Foundation moderates a “crimmigration” panel featuring Jacinta Gonzalez of Mijente, Abraham Paulos of Black Alliance for Just Immigration, UCLA Professor Jennifer M. Chacón and Greisa Martinez Rosas of United We Dream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heavy-Handed Charges Don’t Decrease Crime, Leap Says

Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap was featured in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution report about the dropping of charges against an Augusta man who had been detained for nearly two years. Maurice Franklin had been accused of taking part in a 2019 gang-related drive-by shooting in which no one was injured, even though his cellphone data showed that he was 20 minutes away from the crime scene at the time it occurred. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s administration has pushed heavy indictments for all gang-related crimes in the state, including the Franklin case. However, the new measures have been criticized as draconian and unnecessary. “Heavy-handed charging decisions like those made early on in this case haven’t been shown to drive down crime,” Leap said. “They can also lead to further mistrust of police, particularly in communities of color.” All 22 defendants charged in the Augusta case were people of color.


‘Halfway Home’ Book Talk Explores the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration

Sociologist Reuben J. Miller shared highlights from his new book on the inequities of the U.S. criminal justice system during a virtual dialogue on March 11, part of the Transdisciplinary Speaker Series at UCLA Luskin. “Halfway Home: Race, Punishment and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration” is the culmination of Miller’s years of research in Chicago and Detroit, including over 250 interviews with prisoners, former prisoners, and their friends and families. “It takes more than a few hours and a few cups of coffee to learn about a person,” said Miller, explaining that he wanted to move past the caricatures we have learned to embrace. In the second half of the event, Social Welfare Chair Laura Abrams moderated a discussion about the repercussions of mass incarceration. Michael Mendoza, director of national advocacy for the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, said prison is like a ghost that follows you throughout your life. “The prison-industrial complex doesn’t just punish people physically but emotionally and mentally as people try to get their footing on the ground,” he said. Amada Armenta Ph.D. sociology ’11, associate professor of urban planning, noted the importance of producing research on criminal justice that is accessible for readers in order to facilitate a dialogue. Isaac Bryan MPP ’18, director of the Black Policy Project at UCLA, spoke about making a radical commitment to recognizing the full humanity of people and the role that policy can play in mitigating systems of harm. “This book uplifts voices that need to be heard,” Bryan said. “This book can propel us forward and was made for a moment like this.” — Zoe Day


Events

Discussion of Qualified Immunity and Police Violence

A panel of guest speakers from UCLA and the field of criminal justice will discuss qualified immunity and police violence in America.

PANELISTS:

Emily Weisburst, assistant professor of public policy, criminal justice expert and researcher

Connie Rice, civil rights lawyer and co-director of Advancement Project of Los Angeles

Joanna Schwartz, law professor and a leading expert on police misconduct

Steven Zipperstein, public policy lecturer, and a lawyer on criminal justice policy