When researchers examined arrest data from 1997 to 2008, a third of all young adults and almost half of all African-American men had arrest records by age 23. Yet most arrests are for low-level crimes like disorderly conduct, public drunkenness and drug possession. Nevertheless, America's 18,000 police agencies arrest about ten and a half million people every year.
One of the great injustices in today's justice system is that so many people are punished long before they have been found guilty.
Polygraph tests, often called "lie-detector tests," are not admissible as evidence in the courts. This is because they have never been shown to produce reliable proof of whether the subject is lying.
New York City is infamous for its "stop-and-frisk" policy, which allowed officers to perform a pat-down search on anyone they suspected of carrying a firearm. This resulted in tens of thousands of innocent people, the vast majority of whom were African-American or Latino, being stopped, frisked, and given an arrest record despite having done nothing wrong.
Around the country, there have been calls to significantly reform or even end the practice of keeping police gang databases, along with other gang policing practices. Last year, the nonprofit newsroom ProPublica found glaring errors in the Chicago Police Department's gang database, including people who were not gang members, people who were deemed members of multiple, rival gangs, and people who were elderly or even dead.
The Center for Court Innovation, a New York-based criminal justice reform agency, recently released a study on supposedly race-neutral risk assessment tools. These tools are widely used by courts to determine whether defendants should be granted bail or held in jail until trial.
When we think of people being ordered to pay restitution to the victim of their criminal act, we typically picture that victim being an ordinary person who lost valuables in, say, a burglary. We imagine the restitution is directly tied to the criminal behavior, with simple justice requiring the victim to be repaid. It's often a lot more complicated than that.
Those opposed to criminal justice reform often cite worries that reducing incarceration among violent offenders would be dangerous. This argument rests on the assumption that putting violent offenders in prison is more effective at preventing future crime than other forms of crime prevention. But is that true?
A cognitive bias is something that keeps you from seeing reality as it is. Instead, the bias, which may be perfectly natural, causes you to see the world as you expect it to be.
Recently, criminal justice reform advocates have pointed out a fundamental unfairness in our system. People who can afford bail are allowed to continue their lives while under criminal charges. People who cannot are held in pretrial detention, often until their criminal charges are resolved. They typically lose their jobs and housing and may even lose their kids -- all before they've been found guilty of anything.