Posts

LPPI Co-Hosts Conference of Latino Elected Officials From Across the U.S.

Elected officials from over a dozen different states, including state legislators, municipal and school district officials, gathered Aug. 3-5 at UCLA Luskin for a landmark conference co-hosted by the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI). More than 60 elected officials were expected to participate in the first-ever National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) National Education Leadership and Public Policy Academy to learn about effective public policies that support Latino families and communities. NALEO Educational Fund and LPPI designed an innovative public policy curriculum to strengthen the governance capacity of Latino policymakers in the critical policy areas of education, economic development, criminal justice and immigration. “UCLA is ecstatic to partner with NALEO Educational Fund to empower Latino elected officials with the data and strategy necessary to address today’s most critical policy challenges and improve the well-being of Latinos from Connecticut to California,” said Sonja Diaz, LPPI’s executive director. The invitation-only intensive training featured modules created by LPPI faculty, with a cadre of national policy experts and practitioners from across the U.S. advancing evidence-based policymaking. Conference speakers included Diaz and her LPPI co-founders — UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura and Matt Barreto, professor of political science and Chicano/a Studies at UCLA — as well as LPPI-affiliated faculty such as Amada Armenta, who recently joined the faculty of UCLA Luskin Urban Planning. NALEO Educational Fund Executive Director Arturo Vargas also participated.

Decriminalizing Latinos Is Focus of Criminal Justice Gathering Latino Policy & Politics Initiative brings together scholars, policymakers and nationally known advocates for the Latino community for a day of presentations, discussions and workshops

A recent gathering at UCLA Luskin included a full-day of programming related to efforts to advance visibility on the experience of Latinos in the criminal justice system across the United States.

Dozens of experts and scholars on Latino issues at the local, state and national levels gathered on campus May 31, 2018, for a day of presentations and workshops organized by the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) and LatinoJustice PRLDEF. Attendees included a number of nationally known advocates for Latinos, including LatinoJustice President Juan Cartagena.

“It is so reaffirming seeing Latinx people talking about these issues,” Cartagena told a packed classroom of workshop participants, including several UCLA Luskin students. “Everyone in this room should be listed as experts.”

The sessions began with an introduction from Dean Gary Segura, who was also one of the participants in a high-level strategy workshop focusing on Latino civil rights and the U.S. criminal justice system.

He told attendees that he helped found LPPI in part to address a shortfall in research about issues of importance to Latinos, including inequalities in the criminal justice system.

“People across the ideological divide agree that this is an issue for the Latino community,” said Segura, who said he hoped the day would provide an opportunity for attendees to “think constructively about the things that have to happen” in order to bring about change.

Matt Barreto answers a question during the opening panel, which was streamed live over social media. Photo by Les Dunseith

A discussion hosted by LPPI’s founding director, Sonja Diaz, followed with Cartagena and Matt A. Barreto, a professor of political science and Chicana/o Studies at UCLA and the other co-founder of LPPI. They zeroed in on the fact that national discussions have historically downplayed the impact on Latinos of criminal justice policies related to policing, mass incarceration or unequal rates of prosecution.

“Why are Latinos invisible in this discussion?” Barreto asked. “It’s because we are invisible in the data.”

For example, the U.S. Census has historically grouped Latinos with whites in its tabulations based on ethnicity. And this shortcoming has been replicated in much of the research at the state and local levels.

“So many people don’t count Latinos,” Barreto said. “This makes advocacy impossible.”

Today, some states still do not count Latinos as a separate group, he said. Even when Latinos are specified in the data, “some counties have better data than others.”

Discussions like this one continued for several hours, and participants had an opportunity to hear from wide range of people — scholars, policymakers and community advocates. That evening, the participants viewed a sneak peek of the in-progress documentary, “Bad Hombres,” by award-winning filmmaker Carlos Sandoval, and then heard from the director, Cartagena, UCLA lecturer Virginia Espino, and from some of the people featured in the film.

Noting an “insurmountable amount of knowledge of Latino criminal justice knowledge on the stage,” second-year UCLA Luskin student Gabriela Solis Torres participated in the gathering and shared her impressions via social media, saying, “I am so honored to be in the same of the room as such inspiring leaders.”

View additional photos in an album on Flickr

 

 

 

Arrest Study Shows Disparities by Employment, Race

Alvin Teng and Estefanía Zavala

Between 2012 and 2017, 43 percent of all people arrested in the city of Los Angeles were unemployed, according to a new study co-authored by Master of Public Policy students at UCLA Luskin. “Policing the Unemployed in Los Angeles: An Analysis of LAPD Data (2012-2017)” highlights disparities in arrests by race and employment, with African Americans (32.6 percent) and Latinos (43.9 percent) representing the majority of arrests of unemployed people. “Working on the report and seeing how unemployed people are arrested on charges like failure to appear made me reflect on how governments invest/disinvest in their most vulnerable communities,” said second-year MPP student Estefanía Zavala, who worked with classmate Alvin Teng , UCLA Professor of History and African American Studies Kelly Lytle Hernandez, and Albert Kocharphum, assistant campus GIS coordinator at UCLA. The Million Dollar Hoods report, in conjunction with the Los Angeles Black Worker Center, shows that among African American men and women, the highest percentage of arrests was on failure to appear charges for both groups. Top ZIP codes for number of arrests were in South Los Angeles, a people considered houseless exceeded 18,000. During the five-year period, unemployed people spent the equivalent of 1,402 years in LAPD custody, the authors found. Data came via Public Records Act requests fulfilled by the LAPD in March 2018 and included information on more than 20 categories of detention bookings. — Stan Paul

Early Childhood Incarceration Linked to High Rates of Physical, Mental Health Issues Half of those admitted to juvenile justice facilities before their teen years reported suicidal thoughts as adults

By Ryan Hatoum

Elizabeth Barnert, left, and Laura Abrams. Photo by George Foulsham

When children are placed in juvenile detention centers, jails or prisons before their teenage years, they are much more likely to experience serious physical and mental health issues as adults, according to a new study by UCLA researchers.

The UCLA researchers reported that more than 21 percent of people who had been incarcerated as children reported poor general health in adulthood, compared with 13 percent for those incarcerated later in life and 8 percent for those never incarcerated. The study appears in the International Journal of Prisoner Health.

“Those at risk for imprisonment during childhood need special attention from the health care sector,” said Elizabeth Barnert, principal investigator of the study and an assistant professor of pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “The rates of poor health outcomes among people who’ve been incarcerated tell us there’s a huge need for us to take better care of them — both as kids and as adults.”

There has been a growing international movement to find alternatives to juvenile incarceration — or the detainment of minors in juvenile halls, probation camps and other juvenile justice facilities — for the youngest offenders. Many countries are raising the minimum age at which adolescents can be incarcerated and are deferring children to other programs for rehabilitation.

Researchers from the Geffen School, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital analyzed data from 14,689 adult participants in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. Their analysis considered three groups: adults who had been incarcerated during the ages of 7 to 13; adults who had been incarcerated during the ages of 14 to 32; and adults who had never been incarcerated.

“From the data we have available, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why those who enter the juvenile justice system at a young age face greater health challenges,” said Laura Abrams, also a principal investigator of the study and a professor and chair of Social Welfare at the Luskin School. “It’s likely a combination of trauma, which can lead to troubled behavior and long-term health problems, and the lasting effects of the conditions of early imprisonment.”

A key study finding were the differences among the groups’ mental health symptoms. Thirty-eight percent of the people who had been incarcerated before age 14 experienced symptoms of depression in adulthood, contrasted with 24 percent of those who were incarcerated at age 14 to 32 and 15 percent of the never-incarcerated group.

In other findings, more than one in four of those incarcerated before age 14 reported suicidal thoughts as adults, contrasted with about one in 10 of the group incarcerated at later ages and one in 15 of the group who had never been incarcerated.

Among the respondents who had been incarcerated at the youngest ages — seven to 12 — the rate was even higher; half experienced suicidal thoughts and ideation in adulthood.

“Incarceration has human costs at all ages, but with children, it’s particularly problematic,” Abrams said. “Children need spaces to grow and thrive — not to be confined in jail-like settings.”

While this new analysis does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between early incarceration and poor health later in life, mounting research gives experts a sense of the factors involved.

One such factor is who gets incarcerated in the first place — for which research has shown there is bias. A study in the journal Criminal Justice and Behavior found that of children with psychiatric disorders, those of a racial or ethnic minority are more likely than those who are white to be incarcerated rather than diverted to the community for treatment. As such children are placed into juvenile justice facilities, their health issues may be left untreated or worsen.

The UCLA study found disproportionate racial, ethnic and socioeconomic patterns in those incarcerated as young children. People incarcerated at the youngest ages were significantly more likely to be male, black or Hispanic than those incarcerated at older ages and those never incarcerated. They were also much more likely to have been raised in the lowest income group and in a single-parent household.

“We’re only now starting to understand the full effects of juvenile incarceration on the person, and from a health perspective, the needs of this population are largely going unmet,” Barnert said. “We need a system that effectively addresses their health challenges as early as possible — ideally preventing adolescents from ever reaching juvenile hall.”

Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light Experts at UCLA Luskin Social Welfare event laud recent moves to divert more youth from the criminal justice system and into programs that help them transform their lives

By Les Dunseith

On March 13, 2018, UCLA Luskin Social Welfare hosted an event that featured two panels of experts in youth justice engaged in critical conversations about efforts to intercede on behalf of troubled young people before they become entangled in a corrections system that often perpetuates a cycle of crime and punishment.

The event was organized by Professor Laura Abrams, chair of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare, building on themes outlined in her recent book co-authored with Diane Terry MSW ’04 PhD ’12, who is a senior research associate at Loyola Marymount University: “Everyday Desistance: The Transition to Adulthood Among Formerly Incarcerated Youth.”

The first panel was moderated by Jorja Leap MSW ’80 PhD ’89, an adjunct professor of social welfare. It focused on diversion, a process that enables young people in contact with the justice system to bypass formal prosecution if they meet specific criteria and successfully complete a program that fits their potential needs (such as restorative justice and counseling).

The panelists included retired Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza, the director of the Los Angeles County Office of Diversion and Reentry, who has played a leadership role in recent efforts to reframe how L.A. County handles youth when they first get into trouble with the law. He described the significance of the County Board of Supervisors’ recent motion creating a new Office of Youth Diversion and Development, which will be overseen by Espinoza within his office.

“That action culminated almost a year of work where disparate justice partners, community organizations and law enforcement came together to try to hammer out what became an 80-page road map for youth diversion in Los Angeles County,” Espinoza explained.

The new model will “divert youths at first point of contact with law enforcement and not at the point of arrest,” Espinoza noted.

Panelists Gloria Gonzales and Kim McGill are organizers with the Youth Justice Coalition, one of the community-based groups that will be providing some of the services for the new diversion program. Both have personally had experiences with juvenile justice systems in the past. Out of their commitment to systems change, they have also been part of this effort and expressed cautious optimism.

“It’s at the point where this is the best start to building a relationship between the community-based organizations and the police and law enforcement agencies,” Gonzales said. “But I also know that is going to be a really, really hard new model to establish.”

“We have a really strong plan,” McGill said about the effort, which she participated in creating. “But how do we make a dream real in L.A. County?”

Panelist Sean Kennedy, the former director of the federal public defender’s office who now serves as director of the Loyola Law School Center for Juvenile Law and Policy, observed: “I think this is a great start. But, in the past, diversion is often too limited. Too many great kids are excluded.”

Although Leap and the four panelists all said they view the new approach as being a positive development, similar efforts in the past have fallen short in part because of outmoded attitudes that emphasized punishment of youth without dealing with the root causes of their actions.

“Diversion, in my view, isn’t about accountability – although I guess that is a part of it,” Kennedy said. “It’s really about addressing unaddressed trauma, seeking to heal damaged kids, and — and I think this is too often overlooked — education advocacy to deal with problems in the schools where they often first arise.”

Abrams moderated a second panel that focused on the concept of desistance, which relates to efforts by individuals to cease — or at least moderate — the attitudes, behaviors and habits that contributed to criminal justice involvement. Desistance is often defined as the gradual process of establishing a new, crime-free lifestyle.

Terry offered examples from her book with Abrams to illustrate that desistance is far more complicated than simply forcing someone to abide by the law.

“Desistance is a process,” Terry said. “It does not happen linearly; it’s fluid. But it starts with the changes that the young people themselves are trying to make.”

Panelist Harry Grammer is founder and president of New Earth, which provides arts, educational and vocational programs to empower youth ages 13-25 to transform their lives and move toward positive, healthier life choices. He applauded the contributions of academics to the transformative justice movement, but cautioned the many students in attendance against viewing young people only as they fit into groups or populations for statistical purposes.

“This is important if you are going to be doing research or evaluations on anyone,” Grammer said. “If you don’t understand their culture, where they come from, the foods that they eat, who they love in their lives, then there is no way to build a true rapport.”

Chuck Supple, director of the Division of Juvenile Justice for the California Department of Corrections, flew in from the Sacramento area to participate in the panel discussion and express his support for research and policy that changes the ways that society deals with young people who have gotten into trouble.

“We hope to be able to play a part in helping to develop new skills to reduce risk while they are in DJJ, but, more importantly, to be able to build strengths that are going to transcend into the community,” Supple told an audience of about 50 people at UCLA’s James West Alumni Center.

“It’s not just doing no harm, but going back into the community and playing important roles in terms of employment, education and community involvement. It’s helping them to change the very conditions that led to them coming to us in the first place,” he said.

The evening closed with an emphasis on the factors that will play out in the implementation of both the diversion plan and ongoing desistance.

“It’s critical to think about the key themes that emerged from both panels – the importance of paying attention to individual youth as well as the need for lasting systems change,” Leap said. “These two poles are connected, always, by the crucial role played by the community – the nonprofit organizations, the families and the residents – who are all involved and part of the change that is underway.”

 

UCLA Study Finds Price of Freedom Too High for Poor L.A. Families While bail companies made millions in profit, hundreds of thousands of residents in poor communities remained behind bars awaiting trial, according to researchers

By Stan Paul

Between 2012 and 2016 more than $19 billion in bail was levied on individuals arrested for felonies and misdemeanors by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), according to a new study conducted by the Million Dollar Hoods Research team based at UCLA. Of this, $17.5 million in cash went to the court and more than $193 million in nonrefundable bail bond deposits were pocketed by bail bond agents.

The report, “The Price for Freedom: Bail in the City of L.A.,” is the work of Kelly Lytle Hernandez, interim director of UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, and two UCLA graduate students: Isaac Bryan, a master of public policy student at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and Terry Allen, an education Ph.D. candidate.

In California, those who are arrested for crimes, in most cases, have the right to freedom prior to trial if they can post bail determined by the court. Money bail is the mechanism for this freedom, which is also intended to ensure that the accused will appear for all court pretrial and trial proceedings.

Of the total of bail assessed — nearly $4 billion for each of the years in the study — approximately 70 percent was unpaid, meaning that nearly a quarter of a million people remained in custody before arraignment and trial. This percentage, which translates to more than $13.5 billion that went unpaid, also represents overwhelmingly those unable to pay — the poor. According to the study, disproportionately bearing the burden of the actual dollars paid for bail bonds were women, “namely black women and Latinas, representing mothers, grandmothers, aunts, friends and wives of the accused,” the researchers said in the report.

“This is an astounding toll that Los Angeles residents — not yet convicted of any crime — are charged for their freedom,” said Hernandez, also an associate professor of history at UCLA and one of the nation’s leading historians on race, policing, immigration and incarceration. “It’s no wonder that so many Californians remain imprisoned before trial simply because they cannot afford bail. This is an extraordinary amount of wealth taken primarily from low-income, communities of color.”

Of almost $200 million paid for bail bonds, Latinos represented $92.1 million, African Americans $40.7 million, and whites $37.9 million, the study’s authors reported. Among communities studied, four out of the top five were located in South Central Los Angeles and the greatest amounts of bail paid were in city council districts with the highest unemployment, with homeless individuals making up nearly $4 billion of the money bail levied in the areas studied.

The information, obtained through public records act requests fulfilled by the LAPD in March of 2017, was broken down by City Council districts “so elected officials can see how much their constituents are paying to a private industry that doesn’t generate outcomes,” Hernandez said.

Bryan, who served as lead author of the report, is a second-year MPP student at UCLA Luskin.

“I think the bail report will revive a conversation on the economic sustainability of such a wide net in pretrial incarceration, the morality of such a punitive system reaction to poverty, and the disparate racial impacts associated with the current money bail system,” he said. “I am hoping it is the final push that is needed to spur policymakers toward a more equitable pretrial system.” Bryan is also serving as a David Bohnett Fellow in Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Office of Reentry, established in 2015.

Hernandez said that other states have found other non-monetary ways to ensure that the accused will return to court. Six states currently use an algorithm to help determine risk to public safety and risk of flight, Bryan said. New Jersey, for example, uses such a risk assessment tool. Prosecutors are still able to disagree with the algorithm, which may require another hearing before a judge.

According to Hernandez, the alternatives have “functioned well, if not better than money bail.”

But, for L.A., most people are not able to pay money bail, according to the researchers. For those who pay bail bond agents, that money — typically about 10 percent of the bail amount levied — is never returned and additional fees apply, the research team reported. “Among them, many individuals as well as their families and communities are simply too poor to pay the price of freedom,” they conclude.

The report may be accessed online.

‘Desistance’ and the Transition to Adulthood Book by UCLA Luskin Professor Laura Abrams and social welfare alumna Diane J. Terry examines challenges faced by formerly incarcerated youth as they become adults

By Stan Paul

What are the prospects for young men and women who grow up in and then age out of the juvenile justice system?

Research and the media paint a bleak picture for those whose formative adolescent years have been intertwined with incarceration, and may continue to traverse the revolving door of probation, detention and corrections into their adult lives.

Using in-depth, in-person interviews, UCLA social welfare professor Laura S. Abrams and Diane J. Terry SW Ph.D. ’12, who also earned her MSW degree at Luskin, have presented a more nuanced portrait of life after juvie in their new book, “Everyday Desistance: The Transition to Adulthood Among Formerly Incarcerated Youth” (Rutgers University Press).

Desistance is often defined as “the movement toward the complete termination of offending,” yet in their study the authors are able to hone in on the nuances of this process for young adults.

Abrams and Terry collected firsthand stories and insights to answer the following questions: What does everyday life look like for young people who age out of the juvenile justice system? And how do young people navigate the transition to adulthood while attempting to stay out of the hands of the law?

Terry, now a senior research associate at Loyola Marymount College’s Psychology Applied Research Center, and Abrams interviewed 25 men and women ages 18-25 in Los Angeles who aged out of the juvenile justice system. Some interviews spanned numerous years to understand the transition as “emerging adults” and the participants’ “everyday” experiences of constructing lives after growing up in the juvenile justice system.

The researchers said that they looked at those whose lives lie between the extreme narratives that predict failure or success against all odds. They focused on the challenges and opportunities of desistance from crime and alongside becoming an adult — those neither giving up on their goals nor experiencing a simple and straightforward pathway to success.

“Criminal desistance is not an end goal; it is a process. And it is certainly not linear,” Abrams said. The book is the culmination of a decade of Abrams’ work on juvenile re-entry and desistance — research she started upon arriving at UCLA in 2006.

Among the chapters in the books are “The Road to Juvie,” “Locked Up and Back Again” and “Now I’m an Adult.” The book also covers the very different points of view and experiences of men and women in the juvenile justice system.

“The young women have a unique story, and much of their post-incarceration lives revolve around finding and experiencing a sense of ‘home’ that they didn’t have in their youth,” Abrams said.

Another chapter, “You Can Run but You Can’t Hide,” points out the dangers that persist when youth transitioning to adulthood return to their old neighborhoods. Those youths said that they feel marked by their histories.

“We’re all marked. Forever. All of us. No matter how much the transformation,” said a young man named Oscar, whose story features prominently in the book.

Abrams and Terry said that they count this discovery as one of the most important lessons they learned from the interviews. “From the young men’s world view, being marked was partially related to the stigma from appearance, age and race, but was also tied to navigating the urban environments of Los Angeles as former gang members, drug dealers and those who law enforcement viewed as criminals,” Abrams said.

Abrams and Terry previously published a paper from these interviews, “You Can Run But You Can’t Hide”: How Formerly Incarcerated Young Men Navigate Neighborhood Risks.” In that paper, published in the journal Children and Youth Services Review, the researchers wrote about how young men contend with everyday risks — including old gang ties — and complex survival strategies in high-adversity environments.

Abrams and Terry said that research from criminology to biology informed their newest study. But it was the insights gathered from more than 70 interviews that helped them understand the factors that may affect criminal desistance — age, maturity, social bonds, internal motivation, external hooks for change, and neighborhood conditions, among others.

“Although we fully acknowledge that the juvenile justice system continues to create a group of youth who are disadvantaged as they enter adulthood, we contend that these young men and women are a great deal more than their bleak odds,” the authors wrote. They also note that as juveniles age out of the system and are suddenly deemed adults left to their own devices, they are thrust into adulthood and responsibility earlier than their peers who may have access to more social and economic resources.

“Transitioning to adulthood with little support and an incarcerated past is hard,” Abrams said. “There is a lot of trauma to contend with. Most of the youth were struggling with just daily needs. Their lives changed rapidly and unpredictably.”

In the final chapter, the authors recognize the limitations of social safety nets in providing youth with everything needed to overcome barriers to criminal desistance. They call for specific policies for this group similar to those that exist for former foster youth.

“As we listened to the narratives of our participants and watched their adult lives unfold, we were amazed at the ingenuity and resilience of these young men and women to navigate immense obstacles they faced,” Abrams said. “In the end, their stories taught us that all young people have the capacity to reach beyond the labels assigned to them.”

UCLA Researchers Seek Juvenile Justice Alternatives for Children Under 12 UC study indicates that a minimum-age standard is needed to protect California children from prosecution in the juvenile court system

By Stan Paul

Dr. Elizabeth Barnert, left, and Laura Abrams. Photo by George Foulsham

Although Laura Abrams and Dr. Elizabeth Barnert come from opposite ends of the UCLA campus, their work in their respective academic professions meets at the intersection of health and juvenile justice.

A recent University of California study led by Abrams, professor of social welfare in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and Barnert, an assistant professor of pediatrics in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, offers a powerful rationale for shielding children 11 years old and younger from prosecution and incarceration in the state’s juvenile justice system.

“Children in the juvenile justice system literally meet the definition of children with special health care needs,” said Barnert, who worked with Abrams as members of a team affiliated with the University of California Criminal Justice and Health Consortium. Prior to their study, which was recently published in International Journal of Prisoner Health, the issue in California was not on anyone’s radar, they said.

“Kids in conflict with the law are kids that typically have unmet health needs. We see a lot of undiagnosed depression, ADHD and learning disabilities — or absentee parents who can’t support their children due to working three jobs, deportation, imprisonment or substance abuse,” Barnert said. “When we prosecute these children or lock them away, we’re putting them in a system that traumatizes them further and often makes their problems worse.”

The UCLA study brought together UC experts from social welfare, medicine, psychology and psychiatry, law and criminology, as well as community partners from organizations such as the Children’s Defense Fund-California and the National Center for Youth Law.

“Our findings provide a rationale for why California should have a minimum age for entering the juvenile justice system and why children 11 and younger should be excluded,” Barnert said. “The study recommendations are based on international human rights standards, guidelines from organizations like the American Academy of Pediatricians, and medical evidence that children’s brains do not fully mature until their mid-20s.”

Added Abrams: “The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child has established a standard on children in conflict with the law. The convention states that every country should have a minimum age of criminal responsibility, or what we refer to as a minimum age of juvenile justice jurisdiction. The United States does not have this type of law at the federal level, however, so it is up to the states to determine.”

Abrams pointed out that protections for minors already built into current state law are based on the capacity or the intent to commit a crime, as well as the competency to stand trial. California’s 58 counties, however, set many of their own juvenile probation standards. Therefore, “there’s no way to insure, without a minimum-age law, that state laws around capacity and competency are being implemented fairly and without geographic or racial disparities. There is no statewide oversight of these mechanisms for protecting children,” Abrams said.

Findings and recommendations from the UC study and related policy briefs prepared by the researchers include:

  • Children should be held less culpable under criminal law, given their expected developmental immaturity, as repeatedly recognized in recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
  • Children have a diminished capacity to make intentional decisions regarding participation in crimes or to understand that an act was morally wrong.
  • Children have less developed abilities to understand court proceedings and meaningfully participate, emotionally or cognitively, in working with attorneys to wage their own defense.

California currently has no law that specifies a minimum age for prosecuting and imprisoning minors. But a new state senate bill, SB 439, which incorporates the research and recommendations in the UC study, would change that by amending sections 601 and 602 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code related to juvenile court jurisdiction. In particular, the bill would substitute current references to “any person under 18 years of age” with language specifying individuals “ages 12 to 18.”

In its first hearing on April 4, the senate’s committee on public safety passed the bill, which was then referred to the senate appropriations committee, the next step in the legislative process. The bill is part of a package of criminal justice reform bills put forth by the legislators in March.

Proposed amendments and revisions to SB 439 can be found online.

In Pursuit of Misdemeanor Justice UCLA Luskin researchers selected for nationwide Research Network on Misdemeanor Justice will focus on Los Angeles

UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs researchers have been selected to join the Research Network on Misdemeanor Justice based at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

Michael Stoll, professor of public policy and urban planning, and colleague Michael Lens, assistant professor of urban planning at the Luskin School, will lead research efforts focused on policing patterns related to misdemeanors in the city of Los Angeles. Six sites were selected by the Research Network based on proposals submitted from 39 institutions across the United States.

The Research Network on Misdemeanor Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice on Feb. 16, 2017, announced the six sites — Los Angeles; Toledo, Ohio; Durham, N.C.; Seattle, Wash.; Prince George’s County, Md.; and St. Louis, Mo. — selected to join New York City as part of the network. The core sites will use data analytics to inform policy discussions and reforms regarding trends in the enforcement of lower-level offenses. Through a generous $3.25-million, three-year grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF), the Research Network builds upon the success of the Misdemeanor Justice Project in New York City.

“We are excited to work with the core sites and to help inform their policy decisions on critical issues regarding the role of the criminal justice system in responding to low-level misconduct,” said John Jay College President Jeremy Travis.

The Research Network is a national alliance of seven jurisdictions that will examine trends in the enforcement and disposition of lower-level offenses at a local level and, for the first time, at a cross-jurisdictional level. The Research Network, working with research institutions, data partners and stakeholders, aims to build data infrastructure at a local level. The Network also seeks to inform smarter criminal justice policies that enhance public safety, increase public trust in the police and implement fiscally responsible policies, particularly surrounding behaviors that involve officer discretion.

Stoll and Lens will partner with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to study data from stops and arrests over time and across different precincts. The data will be used to help them identify possible “misdemeanor hot spots” where diversion programs could be more effective.

“The larger good in studying policing related to low-level offenses will be to figure out how the LAPD can police smarter and more effectively,” Stoll said. He added that there is evidence that individuals involved in multiple misdemeanor offenses have a high probability to go on to commit a felony offense, and that intervention and diversion at the misdemeanor level can be effective in reducing felony offenses.

In looking at misdemeanors and police intervention over time, Stoll and Lens hope to build a network in Los Angeles supportive of this effort. This includes partnering with the city attorney, nonprofit organizations and diversion programs.

The selection criteria for the six sites included a commitment toward evidence-based reform in their local jurisdiction and the availability of high quality administrative data on arrests for lower level offenses, summonses, pedestrian stops and case outcome data that includes pretrial detention. The Research Network received 39 proposals. The research partners are UCLA, University of Toledo, North Carolina Central University, Seattle University, University of Maryland and University of Missouri—St. Louis.

“To see the work of the Misdemeanor Justice Project expand from New York City to six other jurisdictions is very exciting,” said professor Preeti Chauhan, the principal investigator of Research Network. “We are looking forward to replicating the New York model to these sites and believe the results will guide smarter criminal justice reform.”

Enforcement of lower-level offenses has a profound impact on the criminal justice system. It can overwhelm the courts and delay case processing, often resulting in large numbers of individuals held on pretrial detention. High-volume activity serves as the basis of public opinion about police and the legitimacy of the criminal justice system. The Research Network works with criminal justice stakeholders to obtain accurate data, provide objective analyses and disseminate findings to key stakeholders in the community, renowned scholars and policymakers to spur a national dialogue.