SMART JUSTICE IN 2020

 

SMART JUSTICE IN 2020: 3 STEPS FOR CRIMINAL REFORM IN KANSAS

New legislation being introduced this session in the Kansas legislature would take immediate steps to fix three major broken pieces of the Kansas criminal legal system, which has been in crisis for years now. Here are the issues that our state's legislators can no longer wait to resolve.

 

Stop the Revolving Door of Probation

Over one-third of all Kansans are admitted to prison for technical violations they incurred while on probation, not new crimes. For example, probation conditions may require that someone maintains employment. If that individual is unable to find a job, they could end up re-incarcerated. The system sets people up to fail.

The proposed probation reforms would end incarceration for technical violations of probation and offer earned credit compliance (a 30-day reduction for every 30 days that the individual is in compliance).

 

Return Seized Property After Acquittal (HB2193)

Currently, Kansas law allows law enforcement agencies to seize citizens' property based solely on suspicion of criminal activity, a process known as civil asset forfeiture. Even after the property owner is acquitted, they must navigate a complicated legal process to get their property back, such as suing the agency that took the property. The litigation costs often exceed the value of the property. This means, for example, a Kansan could lose their only transportation to get to work - even if they are never convicted.

We are talking about everyday people who have had their homes, cars, money, and other property taken through civil forfeiture, which requires only mere suspicion that the property is connected to a crime. The transparency law passed by the legislature in 2018 was a good first step, but it did nothing to directly impact how Kansas civil asset forfeiture law still undermines due process rights and property rights.

The proposed civil asset forfeiture reform would require law enforcement to automatically return seized property upon the property owner's acquittal. This would remove the unjust and ineffective violation of every American's right to property and to due process.

 

Ban the Box (HB2259)

Kansans who have served their time should have the chance to work and to rejoin their communities - instead of being permanently punished long after their release. That's why we support removing the felony question from state job applications.

The proposed Ban the Box reform would include solidifying into Kansas statute the existing executive order issued by former Governor Jeff Colyer for executive branch jobs. 

 

FURTHER READING: SMART JUSTICE IN KANSAS

We’re choosing to be optimistic about the pending Kansas Criminal Justice Reform Commission. Indeed, the problems of our justice system require a complete overhaul. We need a broad approach to policy changes, rather than a piecemeal one. Decisions based on data over ideology could be a huge step forward for a fairer, rational criminal justice system. Criminal Justice Task Force In Kansas Could Tackle The Bigger Picture (The Hays Post)

Lowering fines for marijuana possession and acknowledging that people of color are disproportionately arrested for marijuana possession? Yes, please, Lawrence! Lawrence lowers fines for marijuana possession (13 WIBW)

Opinion: More prosecutors should choose diversion over incarceration. (The Wichita Eagle)

“Hundreds of times weekly, prosecutors negotiate plea deals with misdemeanor defendants who lack counsel and may agree to unfair dispositions.” Prosecutors must maintain ethical conduct during misdemeanor plea deals, ABA ethics opinion says (ABA Journal)

 

REDUCING SENTENCING

We need to rethink misdemeanor justice, considering solutions such as re-routing low-level violations from criminal to civil court and offering diversion programs. Why We Need to Rethink Misdemeanor Justice (Governing Magazine)

Kansas prisons are overcrowded and understaffed dangerously, to the point of crisis. Lawmakers could significantly remedy this by changing sentencing guidelines and making other direct policy changes. How Kansas prisons became an ‘absolute mess’ that will cost taxpayers millions to fix (The Kansas City Star)

“While older prisoners suffer from the same conditions that afflict senior citizens everywhere, the costs of these issues only increases in a correctional setting. Elder care becomes a logistical challenge in prison, complicated by security concerns.” The state of Kansas should look to compassionate clemency for aging inmates for whom incarceration no longer makes sense from a community safety or financial perspective. ‘They really struggle’: As inmates grow old, Kansas prisons plan for geriatric care (The Wichita Eagle)

 

RESTORATIVE JUSTICE

What can we learn from Germany's prison system, where loss of liberty is the full punishment, incarceration is a last resort after community-based sanctions, and a modern criminal justice system confronts the truth of its horrific history? Out From the Holocaust (The Marshall Project)

 

 

BAIL REFORM

Endeavour Capital owns the largest bail bond company in the nation—and profits off of the misery that is our predatory bail industry. Endeavor Capital relies heavily on public investment funds, like university endowments and public pension funds, to expand Aladdin Bail Bonds and to fight against bail reform. This report lays out the impact of taxpayer money invested in Endeavour Capital—and why it’s past the time ending the flow of this money.  Profiting off Misery: Endeavour Capital and the Public Pension Funds and Endowments Propping up the Predatory Bail Industry (ACLU)

Detaining low-risk defendants before they face trial is expensive and disproportionately targets low-income Americans who lack financial resources. Beyond financial costs, pre-trial detention increases the likelihood that defendants will plead guilty simply to return to their jobs and families sooner, but in the long run, these defendants suffer serious economic damage. Our Bail System Costs the Country 15 Billion Per Year (Pacific Standard)

A few weeks before his release from prison, Jarrell Daniels took a class where incarcerated men learned alongside prosecutors. By simply sitting together and talking, they uncovered surprising truths about the criminal justice system and ideas for how real change happens. Now a scholar and activist, Daniels reflects on how collaborative education could transform the justice system and unlock solutions to social problems. Jarrell Daniels: What prosecutors and incarcerated people can learn from each other (TED)

Courts have taken a number of steps towards ending how we criminalize poverty, including ordering that defendants be provided with attorneys at their bail-setting hearings, ruling that judges can’t profit off bail payments, and dismantling bail schemes from the ground up. Courts are Intervening to Dismantle Unjust Cash Bail Systems Across the U.S. (The Appeal)

 

CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE

“Asset forfeiture may sound innocuous enough but in practice it’s abusive and fundamentally unjust. It’s when the government seizes money or property even without a criminal conviction. Kansas’ unjust forfeiture law amounts to policing for profit (The Kansas City Star)

“When someone contests a civil asset forfeiture, it costs time and money, for the prosecution, but also for the property owner. Because it's a civil case, no one is entitled to free legal representation, so challenging a forfeiture can quickly cost more in lawyer fees than the property is worth… That financial barrier means people often abandon their property to the state, rather than challenge a forfeiture.” Defining What's Excessive In Police Property Seizures Remains Tricky (National Public Radio)

Per transparency legislation passed in 2018, the KBI must produce a website that reports on civil asset forfeiture—when law enforcement seizes assets believed to be “criminal”—by July 1, 2019. Until now, there has been no publicly released data on just how many Kansans have been victims of policing for profit. Kansas House Bill 2459

Under current Kansas law, law enforcement agencies can seize property if it’s “suspected” of being connected to criminal activity, such as drug money - and Highway Patrol in particular has done so. These seizures, known as civil asset forfeiture, are seemingly on a whim, happening without due process - before an individual has even been arrested, charged, or convicted. And even after acquittal, affected individuals almost never get their property back. This all creates a huge incentive for law enforcement to shake down innocent citizens for profit. We Need Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform to End Highway Robbery by the State - Now (ACLU of Kansas)

Civil asset forfeiture—when law enforcement seizes assets believed to be “criminal”—disproportionately affects poor communities of color. And new research finds that when unemployment goes up in a community, so does the likelihood that local police will target it for forfeiture. Study: Civil asset forfeiture doesn’t discourage drug use or help police solve crimes (The Washington Post)

 

MENTAL HEALTH

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt urges focus on mental health, addiction services for inmates (The Topeka Capital-Journal)

The Bureau of Prisons set higher standards for psychiatric care. But instead of helping more inmates, the agency dropped thousands of inmates who needed treatment from its caseload. Treatment Denied: The Mental Health Crisis in Federal Prisons (The Marshall Project)

If we “can’t afford” to expand mental health and drug treatment, should we really be spending $7 million on extra offices for prosecutors? Opinion: Let’s hit the pause button on more space for prosecutors (The Wichita Eagle)Let’s hit the pause button on more space for prosecutors (The Wichita Eagle)

What happens to people with intellectual disabilities in the criminal justice system?  Behind Bars for 66 Years (The Marshall Project)

 

PROSECUTORS

A former prosecutor on the frequency of blatant misconduct – and immunity from consequences – and how we can deter misuse of power.  Misconduct by prosecutors is rampant — how do we deter it? (The Lens Nola)

“Hundreds of times weekly, prosecutors negotiate plea deals with misdemeanor defendants who lack counsel and may agree to unfair dispositions.” Prosecutors must maintain ethical conduct during misdemeanor plea deals, ABA ethics opinion says (ABA Journal)

“Thus the costs of wrongful convictions are disproportionately borne by the group with less political power, or at least a weaker political voice.”  Why do prosecutors go after innocent people? (The Washington Post)

If we “can’t afford” to expand mental health and drug treatment, should we really be spending $7 million on extra offices for prosecutors?  If we “can’t afford” to expand mental health and drug treatment, should we really be spending $7 million on extra offices for prosecutors? Let’s hit the pause button on more space for prosecutors (The Wichita Eagle)(The Wichita Eagle)

 

 

NATIONAL TRENDS

Violent crime and property fell sharply over the past quarter century, but public perception often doesn’t align with data. Crime rates vary largely by region, and most crimes go unreported, and most reported crimes go unsolved. 5 facts about crime in the U.S. (Pew Research Center) 

Violent crime and property fell sharply over the past quarter century, but public perception often doesn’t align with data.

Crime rates vary largely by region.

Most crimes go unreported, and most reported crimes go unsolved.

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/01/03/5-facts-about-crime-in-the-u-s/