2014’s Criminal Justice Victories
by Peter Wagner, December 24, 2014
2014 was a year of big victories for the Prison Policy Initiative. We published some insightful new reports, reshaped the criminal justice reform debate through the press, and won a prestigious award, but most importantly our campaigns took some very big steps forward and in some cases we took those victories all the way to major policy changes.
Here are some of the biggest wins in our campaigns this year:
- A federal judge issues a strong opinion, allowing our lawsuit against prison gerrymandering in Cranston Rhode Island to proceed. Trial is scheduled for late 2015.
- The Massachusetts legislature passed a bipartisan resolution urging the Census Bureau to provide redistricting data that counts incarcerated persons at home.
- Legislation to end prison gerrymandering unanimously passed the Rhode Island Senate. (We didn’t succeed in the House, though.)
- The Federal Communications Commission capped the cost of inter-state calls home from prisons and jails, and has opened a comment period about extending this historical regulation to in-state calls as well.
- For the first time ever, there was large-scale public organizing against a video visitation contract that would have ended traditional in-person visitation and replaced it with expensive computer video visits. (These contracts are common but they are often done out of public view so protests are rare.) Dallas County listened and rejected the proposed contract. (The company, Securus, however, did slip a few worrisome provisions into the final contract that will require constant monitoring.)
- The effort to reform Connecticut’s extreme 1,500 sentencing enhancement zone didn’t pass the full legislature, but Aleks Kajstura’s report was very helping in getting the bill out of a committee for the very first time.
- Helped by Leah Sakala’s report about the state’s practice of automatically suspending the driver’s licenses of people convicted of drug offenses unrelated to driving, a reform bill passed out of committee in both chambers. We’re feeling good about our chances for next year.
- Governor Patrick signed legislation making Massachusetts the 21st state to end the inhumane practice of routinely shackling incarcerated mothers who are pregnant or giving birth.
Thank you for helping us do all of this work. Here’s to an even more successful 2015!
For more on these and other victories, be sure to see our most recent annual report.