The First Step Act - A Pros and Cons List

The FIRST STEP Act, short for Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act, or H.R.5682 is a bipartisan prison reform bill passed by the House of Representatives on May 22, 2018. The bill’s timid reach is evident in its name, indicating the bill is only the first step in reforming the federal criminal justice system, with future reform on the horizon.

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Bernie Sanders Introduces Bill to Eliminate Cash Bail

Every day between 400,000 and 500,000 people are behind bars who haven't been convicted of a crime, they are just awaiting their day in court. Senator Bernie Sanders has plans to change this. If his Bill passes, it would be a monumental victory for criminal justice reform across the country.

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Expanding SNAP Work Requirements: a Dangerous Game Ending in Poverty

In the classic children’s board game Chutes & Ladders, players move along a game board by rolling a dice, encountering either ladders that advance their progress, or chutes that send them slipping backward.It’s an analogy for the predicament 40 million Americans are soon to be in is fitting. The game carries an eerie resemblance for those who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to move them past the scary pitfalls associated with income inequality and food insecurity.

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Dror's Story: Efficiency and Justice Have Nothing to Do with Each Other

“His wife knocked on the door one morning and burst into tears, and explained what happened,” Gruffudd recalls. He describes a certain despair accompanying the excitement in the visiting area, “full of families and children, dressed in their Sunday best.” Meanwhile, the inmates appeared emotionally and physically deteriorated.

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DOJ Opens Racial Discrimination Investigation into San Francisco’s Bail System in the Wake of Two Successful Settlements Against Other Counties

In response to complaints filed by Equal Justice Under Law against numerous counties across the nation, the Justice Department is now scrutinizing jurisdictions that disproportionately deny pretrial release to people of color, or more commonly, set bail at substantially higher amounts for people of color than for white defendants accused of the same or similar offenses.

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Federal Ruling in Calhoun, Ga. Case is Why We Can't Stop Pushing Back on Money Bail

In a 2-1 decision, the justices said Wednesday that the city's bond rules are constitutional, even though defendants who can't afford bail remain behind bars for up to 48 hours after their arrests. Two days in jail does not cause unreasonable harm to a person's life, the justices argued.

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DC Podcats Interview Executive Director Phil Telfeyan

In this episode, we talk with Phil Telfeyan about his pro bono practice, Equal Justice Under Law.  We touch on his time at the DOJ, his decision to start a non-profit, how Trump has affected his work, and a little bit about his magic habit. Tune in for some great information and inspiring tidbits on how to start your non-profit and how you can help Equal Justice Under Law. 

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Press Release: Nashville and Davidson County Tennessee Take First Steps to Reform Money Bail

Specifically, the complaint alleges that the Twentieth Judicial District’s practice of requiring defendants to post secured money bail as a pretrial condition of release had a discriminatory effect on African Americans because they are disproportionately detained in jail prior to trial.

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Trapped: How Fee-Based GPS Monitoring Puts a ‘Price Tag on Freedom’

An Op-Ed by Equal Justice Under Law Executive Director, Phil Telfeyan. William Edwards was giving a lift to a friend in Oakland, Ca., in November 2016 when he was stopped by police. After searching his car without a warrant, the officers found drugs in the friend’s bag.

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Lawsuit Alleges Ankle Monitoring Practices Are Akin to Extortion

A new class-action lawsuit accuses Alameda County of allowing a private company to charge excessive fees to people sentenced to electronic monitoring, telling them to pay up or go to jail. James Brooks left his job at the Port of Oakland after his mother was paralyzed by a catastrophic stroke in 2012. The 49-year-old former longshoreman is now her full-time caregiver, earning about minimum wage from the state's In-Home Supportive Services program.

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Lawsuit Confronts Extortion of Prisoners by Electronic Monitoring Firm

Robert Jackson was four days into a 120-day sentence in an Alameda County, California, jail when his wife passed away unexpectedly, leaving their three young children without a parent in the home. He was compassionately released with the caveat that he submit to electronic monitoring by the for-profit Leaders in Community Alternatives (LCA) company. Though his weekly paycheck was $400-$500, his weekly monitoring fees to LCA came to $250 per week — 50-65 percent of his total income.

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Press Release: Alameda County Allows Racketeering at the Expense of the Poor

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – Today Equal Justice Under Law filed a federal class action lawsuit in the Northern District of California against Alameda County for allowing a private company, Leaders in Community Alternatives (LCA), to extort money from poor Californians and about the predatory practices LCA inflicts through the use of GPS tracking devices.

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Join Us for a Civil Rights Roundtable at Berkeley Law

This forum, held August 1st from 2:30 pm to 5 pm at Berkeley Law located at the University of California, will explore the class dynamics of electronic monitoring - deconstructing the idea that electronic monitoring is a pleasant alternative to incarceration; the exploitation that has come from the privatization of the criminal justice system; how local governments allow private companies to place profits before people; how it is being handled during the Trump presidency and concrete ways criminal justice can be enhanced today and for tomorrow.

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Press Release: City of Newark Arkansas Banishes Residents Who Are Poor

NEWARK, ARKANSAS – On July 17th 2018, Equal Justice Under Law, a national civil rights organization based in Washington, D.C., filed a federal civil rights complaint against the City of Newark for blocking and banishing residents simply because they do not own an expensive home.

In 2015, the Newark City Council passed an Exclusion Ordinance forbidding any mobile home worth less than $25,000 (single-wide) or $35,000 (double-wide) from existing within the city limits. Failure to do so is punishable with fines up to $500 a day.

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S.F. Ordinance Targets Fees Faced by Poor Defendants

A number of fees like those faced by our plaintiffs would be wiped out under legislation that San Francisco city Board of Supervisors President London Breed plans to introduce. The ordinance, backed by Supervisor Malia Cohen, along with the city’s treasurer, public defender and district attorney, seeks to change a system that proponents say fails to deter crime while unfairly burdening poor defendants and hindering the rehabilitation of people convicted of crimes.

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