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Clean Slate for Worker Power: Building a Just Economy and Democracy

January 22, 2020

Across our entire history, access to economic and political power has been unforgivably shaped by racial and gender discrimination, as well as by discrimination based on immigration status, by sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, and by ableism. And, truth be told, the American labor movement has itself often failed to insist upon a genuinely inclusive and equitable America.What we need, then, is a new labor law that is capable of empowering all workers to demand a truly equitable American democracy and a genuinely equitable American economy. This report contains many recommendations for how to construct such a labor law, but all of the recommendations are geared toward achieving this overarching goal. In fact, while the policy recommendations are detailed and at times complex, the theory of Clean Slate is simple: When labor law enables working people to build organizations of countervailing power, the people can demand for themselves a more equitable nation.

Clean Slate for Worker Power: Building a Just Economy and Democracy (Executive Summary)

January 20, 2020

Across our entire history, access to economic and political power has been unforgivably shaped by racial and gender discrimination, as well as by discrimination based on immigration status, by sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, and by ableism. And, truth be told, the American labor movement has itself often failed to insist upon a genuinely inclusive and equitable America.What we need, then, is a new labor law that is capable of empowering all workers to demand a truly equitable American democracy and a genuinely equitable American economy. This report contains many recommendations for how to construct such a labor law, but all of the recommendations are geared toward achieving this overarching goal. In fact, while the policy recommendations are detailed and at times complex, the theory of Clean Slate is simple: When labor law enables working people to build organizations of countervailing power, the people can demand for themselves a more equitable nation.

Beyond the Walls: A Look at Girls in D.C.'s Juvenile Justice System

March 28, 2018

Both nationally and in the District of Columbia, boys have made up a vast majority of the juvenile justice population. Consequently, research, best practices, system reform efforts, and policies have been primarily based on the male population. In the past two decades, overall rates of youth involvement in the juvenile justice system have declined, yet the share of girls arrested, petitioned to court, placed on probation, and placed out of home has steadily increased. Due in part to a historical inattention to the unique drivers for girls into the juvenile justice system and the specific needs of justice-involved girls, jurisdictions around the country are seeing an increase in the rates of girls' involvement in the juvenile justice system. Over the past decade, Washington, D.C. (D.C.) has seen a significant increase in the share of girls in its juvenile justice system. This brief serves as a starting point to understand what is causing girls' increased contact with D.C.'s juvenile justice system, to highlight distinctions between girls' and boys' involvement in D.C.'s juvenile justice system, and to identify information gaps that must be addressed in order to reduce the number of system-involved girls and ensure that those girls who are already involved are receiving appropriate services and interventions. Major findings: Girls today make up a larger portion of system-involved youth than in previous years. » Over time, the proportion of 13 to 15-year-old girls entering the juvenile justice system has grown at the greatest rate. » Eighty-six percent of arrests of girls in D.C. are for non-violent, non-weapons related offenses. » In D.C., Black girls are significantly overrepresented in the juvenile justice system.

Dying on the Job in Mississippi: Lack of Adequate Protection for Injured Workers Hurts Families and Communities

December 1, 2017

Every day, more than a million workers in Mississippi head to work to support their families and communities. They work in industries such as shipbuilding, catfish and poultry processing, steel mills, retail, construction, agriculture, healthcare, auto manufacturing, and furniture and wood products manufacturing. Many of these jobs can be dangerous—where job hazards cause serious injuries. In fact, Mississippi workers face one of the highest on-the-job fatality rates of any state in the nation. Furthermore, Mississippi workers suffer hundreds of severe injuries every year and face a workers' compensation system where benefits are so low that injured workers and their families are at risk of falling into poverty.

How Many Americans Are Unnecessarily Incarcerated?

December 9, 2016

While mass incarceration has emerged as an urgent national issue to be addressed, the reforms currently offered are dwarfed by the scale of the problem. The country needs bolder solutions.How can we significantly cut the prison population while still keeping the country safe? This report puts forth one answer to that question. Our path forward is not offered as the only answer or as an absolute. Rather, it is meant to provide a starting point for a broader discussion about how the country can rethink and revamp the outdated sentencing edifice of the last four decades. This report is the product of three years of research conducted by one of the nation's leading criminologists, experienced criminal justice lawyers, and statistical researchers. First, we conducted an in-depth examination of the federal and state criminal codes, as well as the convictions and sentences of the nationwide prison population (1.46 million prisoners serving time for 370 different crime categories) to estimate how many people are currently incarcerated without a sufficient public safety rationale. We find that alternatives to incarceration are more effective and just penalties for many lower-level crimes. We also find that prison sentences can safely be shortened for a discrete set of more serious crimes. Second, based on these findings, we propose a new, alternative framework for sentencing grounded in the science of public safety and rehabilitation.Many have argued that regimented sentencing laws should be eliminated and replaced with broad judicial discretion. Others counter that this would reinstate a system wherein judges are free to deliver vastly divergent sentences for the same crime, potentially exacerbating racial disparities and perpetuating the tradition of harsh sentences.This report proposes a new solution, building on these past proposals. We advocate that today's sentencing laws should change to provide default sentences that are proportional to the specific crime committed and in line with social science research, instead of based on conjecture. These defaults should mandate sentences of alternatives to incarceration for lower-level crimes. For some other crimes that warrant incarceration, they should mandate shorter sentences. Judges should have discretion to depart from these defaults in special circumstances, such as a defendant's criminal history, mental health or addiction issues, or specifics of the crime committed. This approach is grounded in the premise that the first principle of 21st century sentencing should be to protect public safety, and that sentences should levy the most effective, proportional, and cost-efficient sanction to achieve that goal. It aims to create more uniform sentences and reduce disparities, while preserving judicial discretion when needed. Our proposed sentencing defaults for each crime weigh four factors:Seriousness: Murder, for instance, should be treated as a far graver crime than writing a bad check.Victim Impact: If a person has been harmed in the commission of a crime, especially physically, weight toward a more serious sentence.Intent: If the actor knowingly and deliberately violated the law, a more severe sanction may be appropriate.Recidivism: Those more likely to reoffend may need more intervention. Our findings and recommendations, determined by applying the four factors above to the prison population, are detailed below. (The rationale for these factors and our full methodology is described in Appendix A.)

Crime Survivors Speak: The First Ever National Survey of Victim's Views on Safety and Justice

August 3, 2016

To begin filling the gap in available and representative data on who crime victims are and their policy priorities, in April of 2016, Alliance for Safety and Justice commissioned the first-of-its-kind National Survey of Victims? Views. This report describes the findings from this survey and points to opportunities for further research and reform to advance polices that align with the needs and perspectives of victims.

Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2016

March 14, 2016

Wait, does the United States have 1.4 million or more than 2 million people in prison? Are most people in state and federal prisons locked up for drug offenses? Frustrating questions like these abound because our systems of confinement are so fragmented and controlled by various entities. There is a lot of interesting and valuable research out there, but varying definitions make it hard -- for both people new to criminal justice and for experienced policy wonks -- to get the big picture.This report offers some much needed clarity by piecing together this country's disparate systems of confinement. The American criminal justice system holds more than 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 942 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,283 local jails, and 79 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, and prisons in the U.S. territories. And we go deeper to provide further detail on why convicted and not convicted people are locked up in local jails.

Living in the Shadow of Danger: Poverty, Race, and Unequal Chemical Facility Hazards

January 18, 2016

Over 12,500 facilities in the United States use or store such large quantities of extremely dangerous chemicals that they must submit a Risk Management Program (RMP) plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for responding to chemical disasters. People living at the fenceline of these chemical facilities face the greatest dangers. Nearly 23 million residents – 7.5 percent of the total U.S. population – live within one mile of an RMP facility. These communities would be hardest hit during a chemical catastrophe and would have the least amount of time to escape the dangers. The Center for Effective Government graded states based on the dangers faced by people of color and residents with incomes below the poverty line living within one mile of dangerous facilities, compared to white and non-poor people in these areas. How did your state score?

Status Offenses: A National Survey

April 21, 2015

Status offenses are behaviors that violate the law only because the person engaging in them has not yet reached the age of majority. Common examples of these behaviors include running away from home and skipping school. Each year, thousands of children enter the juvenile justice system for these types of behaviors. Currently, status offense laws vary greatly from state to state, with a broad range of terminology and definitions governing the issue. Similarly, diversion programs and practices, as well as sanctions following disposition of a case, differ significantly among the states.This brief examines existing status offense laws across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. It details the legislative label that each state applies to status offense behaviors, the types of behaviors that fall within that label, diversion options that are available in the case, possible outcomes following adjudication, and whether the state uses the valid court order (VCO) exception or a 24-hour hold for youth who are detained for status offense behaviors. This brief may be used by judges, advocates, and legislators to assess national trends and gather ideas for system reform.

Reducing Our Exposure to Toxic Chemicals: Stronger State Health Protections at Risk

March 20, 2015

In 1976, the United States enacted the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to address public concerns about the impact of a growing number of untested chemicals on human health.The law tasks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with identifying potentially dangerous chemicals, gathering information from the manufacturers of chemicals in commercial use, and issuing rules to reduce or eliminate their risks to human health and the environment.For almost 40 years, this federal law has been the lynchpin of our nation's chemical safety policy, and it has failed to protect the American people from being exposed to thousands of chemicals in commercial use that are known to cause harm to humans.At least 84,000 chemicals are registered for commercial use in the U.S. today. EPA has required testing for only about 250 of them and has banned or placed restrictions on only nine.The law was written in a way that severely limits EPA's ability to regulate chemicals. And even the modest work EPA has done is constantly opposed and challenged in court by large chemical companies and their trade associations.With chemical company lobbyists blocking efforts to establish stronger federal protections, states have stepped up and taken the lead: 38 states have established more than 250 laws or rules regulating the use of toxic substances. And 20 state legislatures are currently considering almost 75 new proposed chemical safety policies.But testing and restricting chemicals is resource-intensive work, and many states do not have the funds, expertise, or will to do it. More federal oversight is needed.

Gaming the Rules: How Big Business Hijacks the Small Business Review Process to Weaken Public Protections (Executive Summary)

November 12, 2014

Small businesses are heroic and iconic figures in the American story of opportunity. The vast majority of private enterprises in the U.S. today employ fewer than 100 workers, and many workers aspire to own their own business. So when small businesses argued that the federal rulemaking process should pay attention to their special needs, policymakers listened.By law, three federal agencies – the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – are required to convene a small business review panel any time they plan to issue a rule that could have a significant economic impact on small businesses.Who participates in the review panel process? Are these panels representing and protecting the interests of small businesses in federal rulemaking? Does this process allow for the creation of needed public protections while mitigating any impacts on small businesses?To answer these questions, staff at the Center for Effective Government examined 20 Small Business Advocacy Review panels convened between 1998 and 2012.

Gaming the Rules: How Big Business Hijacks the Small Business Review Process to Weaken Public Protections

November 12, 2014

Small businesses are heroic and iconic figures in the American story of opportunity. The vast majority of private enterprises in the U.S. today employ fewer than 100 workers, and many workers aspire to own their own business. So when small businesses argued that the federal rulemaking process should pay attention to their special needs, policymakers listened.By law, three federal agencies – the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – are required to convene a small business review panel any time they plan to issue a rule that could have a significant economic impact on small businesses.Who participates in the review panel process? Are these panels representing and protecting the interests of small businesses in federal rulemaking? Does this process allow for the creation of needed public protections while mitigating any impacts on small businesses?To answer these questions, staff at the Center for Effective Government examined 20 Small Business Advocacy Review panels convened between 1998 and 2012.