Finally, there is some good news for critics of the American justice system: a decline in the nationwide prison and jail population; a significant drop in the rate of African American imprisonment; conservative activists advocating “criminal justice reform”; judges in New York and California blowing the whistle on unconstitutional police and prison practices; a decrease in the use of capital punishment, with eighteen states now on record in favor of abolition; and a pervasive sense of political and economic exhaustion with the policies that made the United States Number One in the world in punishment.
Except here in California, the political class is trying desperately to maintain the state’s reputation for the largest, most punitive and expensive criminal justice system in the country. With policies that echo Southern states’ efforts to derail the civil rights movement in the 1960s, Governor Jerry Brown and a majority of California Democrats are calling for expanding the prison system; adding unneeded beds in existing prisons; offering money to hard-pressed counties to expand jails; doing deals with global private prison entrepreneurs; reluctantly responding to court-ordered reforms in the health care of prisoners; and refusing to recognize international human rights standards regarding the use of solitary confinement. The U.S. Supreme Court, hardly a bleeding heart liberal institution these days, affirmed a lower federal court’s conclusion that California cannot keep doing its penal business the same way it has done for the last thirty years.
Meanwhile, thousands of California prisoners are locked up in other states far away from their families; there is a public health emergency in two of central California’s prisons; more than one thousand prisoners are now serving sentences of five years or longer in county jails designed to hold pretrial arrestees for a few weeks; and the state’s regular use of solitary confinement as a long-term punishment is out of step with best penal practices around the world and in direct violation of international human rights covenants.
“It is now time to return the control of our prison system to California,” says Governor Brown. We say it’s time to return California’s criminal justice system to a sense of human dignity and social justice by:
• Releasing state prisoners who pose no threat to California, especially the elderly and seriously ill, persons incarcerated for non-violent crimes, and long-time prisoners eligible for parole.
• Immediately complying with federal court orders to provide humane care for the medically and mentally ill.
• Releasing from county jail all prisoners who have been arrested for non-violent crimes and who are unable to make bail due to their poverty.
• Beginning the process of eliminating solitary confinement and use of Security Housing Units as a routine practice, thus bringing California into compliance with international human rights standards.
• Putting resources from the current prison budget into decent educational and training programs for prisoners inside, and into comprehensive service programs for ex-prisoners.
• Finally, we call upon the Governor and legislature to immediately sit down at the bargaining table with representatives of the current prison hunger strike and enter into meaningful negotiations before prisoners die or suffer irreparable damage to their health.
• Stop the political posturing and name-calling, and start negotiating before there is blood on your hands.
Christina Accomando, Professor of English and Critical Race, Gender & Sexuality Studies, Humboldt State University
William T. Armaline, Associate Professor, Justice Studies/Human Rights, San Jose State University
Hadar Aviram, Professor, Harry and Lillian Hastings Research Chair, Hastings College of the Law, University of California
Eduardo Bautista, M.S. Candidate, Department of Justice Studies, San Jose State University
Caroline Beasley Baker, artist, New York
Sara Benson, Lecturer, Justice Studies, San Jose State University
Kristie Blevins, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Justice Studies, Eastern Kentucky University
Avi Brisman, Assistant Professor, Justice Studies, Eastern Kentucky University
Elizabeth Brown, Associate Professor, San Francisco State University
Hoan N. Bui, Associate Professor, Sociology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Roderick D. Bush, Associate Professor, Sociology & Anthropology, St. John’s University
Francisco Casique, Lecturer, Dept. of Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley
Leonidas Cheliotis, Chancellor’s Fellow, School of Law, University of Edinburgh
Victoria Collins, Assistant Professor, Justice Studies, Eastern Kentucky University
Lynn Cooper, Professor Emerita, California State University, Sacramento
Michael J. Coyle, Political Science, California State University, Chico
Barbara Dane, singer and activist
Mike Davis, Professor, Creative Writing, UC Riverside
Alessandro De Giorgi, Associate Professor, Justice Studies, San Jose State University
Daniel Dexheimer, Lecturer, Justice Studies, San Jose State University
Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, Professor Emeritus, California State University, East Bay
Troy Duster, Chancellor’s Professor Emeritus, Institute for the Study of Social Issues, UC Berkeley
Preston Elrod, Professor and Division Chair of Undergraduate Studies, Justice Studies, Eastern Kentucky University
Ashley K. Farmer, Teaching Assistant, Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, University of Delaware
Keith P. Feldman, Assistant Professor, Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley
Marcial Gonzalez, Associate Professor, English, UC Berkeley
Kishonna Gray, Assistant Professor, Justice Studies, Eastern Kentucky University
Danielle Harris, Assistant Professor, Justice Studies, San Jose State University
Veronica Herrera, Visiting Professor, Justice Studies, San Jose State University
Patricia Penn Hilden, Professor Emerita, UC Berkeley
Mary Juno, Lecturer, Forensic Science and Justice Studies, San Jose State University
Dina Kameda, Lecturer, Justice Studies, San Jose State University
Sang Hea Kil, Associate Professor, Justice Studies, San Jose State University
Victor Kappeler, Foundation Professor and Associate Dean, School of Justice Studies
Peter Keane, Professor, Hastings College of the Law, University of California, San Francisco
Steven Lee, Professor & Director, Forensic Science Programs, San Jose State University
Jamie Longazel, Assistant Professor, Sociology and Criminal Justice Studies, University of Dayton
Marta López-Garza, Professor, Chicana/o Studies Department and Gender & Women’s Studies Department, California State University, Northridge
Elisabeth “Betita” Martínez, writer, San Francisco
Shadd Maruna, Professor of Justice Studies, Queens University, Belfast
Jacquelyn McClure, Lecturer, Justice Studies, San Jose State University
Josh Meisel, Associate Professor and Graduate Coordinator, Criminology and Justice Studies, Sociology, Humboldt State University, California
Kevin Minor, Professor, School of Justice Studies, Eastern Kentucky University
Carlos Muñoz, Jr., Professor Emeritus and Chancellor’s Public Scholar, Department of Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley
Margo Okazawa-Rey, Professor Emerita, San Francisco State University
Noam Perry, Lecturer, Justice Studies, San Jose State University
Richard Perry, Professor of Justice Studies, San Jose State University and Lecturer-in-Residence, UC Berkeley Law School
Harold W. Peterson, Lecturer, Justice Studies, San Jose State University
Cecile Pineda, writer
Gary Potter, Professor, Justice Studies, Eastern Kentucky University
Tony Platt, Visiting Professor, Justice Studies, San Jose State University
Timothy J. Reiss, Professor Emeritus, New York University
Keramet Reiter, Assistant Professor, Criminology, Law and Society, and School of Law, UC Irvine.
Claudio G. Vera Sanchez, Assistant Professor, Justice Studies, San Jose State University
Phil Scraton, Professor of Criminology, School of Law, Queen’s University, Belfast, Ireland
Judah Schept, Assistant Professor, School of Justice Studies, Eastern Kentucky University
Susan Schweik, Associate Dean of Arts and Humanities, UC Berkeley
Jonathan Simon, Adrian A. Kragen Professor of Law, Law School, UC Berkeley
David Stein, PhD Candidate in American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California
Margaret Stevenson, Director of Record Clearance Project, Justice Studies, San Jose State University
Jill Stoner, Professor of Architecture, UC Berkeley
Forrest Stuart, Assistant Professor, Sociology, University of Chicago
Ken Tunnell, Professor, Justice Studies, Eastern Kentucky University
Maartje van der Woude, Associate Professor of Criminal Law, Leiden Law School, Netherlands
Bryan Wagner, Associate Professor of English, UC Berkeley
Tyler Wall, Assistant Professor, Justice Studies, Eastern Kentucky University
Geoff Ward, Associate Professor of Criminology, UC Irvine
Janet Winston, Professor of English, Humboldt State University
Matthew G. Yeager, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, King’s University College
For more information, contact Tony Platt (email@example.com).
Tony Platt is a Visiting Professor in Justice Studies at San Jose State University