News

Ashish Prashar writes for USA Today Online

Ashish Prashar
Thursday 14th May 2020

Ashish Prashar, Leap Confronting Conflict trustee, writes an opinion piece for USA Today online. The title of the article is 'COVID-19 is forcing the release of some inmates. What will prisons look like after pandemic?' See below to read in full.

 

The push to release inmates to protect populations inside and outside of prison from COVID-19 has exposed our institutional trigger finger when it comes to locking people up.

About 40% of the incarcerated population doesn’t present a public safety concern, according to a 2016 Brennan Center for Justice report. If our system was more justice oriented and less punitive, we wouldn’t now be scrambling for so many compassionate releases.

Getting “tough on crime” was supposed to rehabilitate society, clear it of repetitively malignant socioeconomic outcomes across communities and create a permanent feeling of safety. Instead it has done nothing but overcrowd prisons, making each a petri dish for COVID-19. This explosive combination of unnecessarily high incarceration rates and a global pandemic accelerates the need to create a better, more holistic approach to justice in America.

In the wake of COVID-19 and tightening state and federal budgets, there is an opportunity for significant nationwide expansion of alternatives to incarceration and detention, and impactful reform of the justice system.

COLUMN: Ben Crump: Ahmaud Arbery killing reminiscent of lynching

Here are three changes that could fundamentally redefine our criminal justice system: practicing restorative justice, implementing misdemeanor reform and passing legislation that would eliminate punishment for parole violations.

Restorative justice, not punitive justice

Punitive justice focuses primarily on punishments. Restorative justice focuses on the relationship between the offender and the victim and centers the needs of survivors in ways that the traditional court system does not.

Programs based on this approach are being used right now in youth courts, such as the Red Hook Community Justice Center and Harlem Community Justice Center, and by Impact Justice’s Restorative Justice Project. The work interrupts the cycle of offending, repairs harm caused to the victim and the community, and incorporates restorative healing circles.

Restorative justice programs have higher survivor satisfaction rates than punitive systems.

Programs like Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion in Seattle are also important. The program partners civilians with local police to divert offenders to needed resources without making an arrest. 

Misdemeanor reforms

Misdemeanors make the U.S. criminal justice system a profit center. They make up 80% of state criminal dockets, putting throngs of people into U.S. jails and prisons.

COLUMN: During COVID-19 crisis, prioritize release of pregnant inmates

Misdemeanors vary in severity from jaywalking to unpaid parking tickets and third-degree assault. While the latter may need stronger consequences, facing jail time for not being able to pay a speeding ticket or jaywalking isn’t just.

Misdemeanor shouldn't be done away with, but our justice system must enforce appropriate consequences for offenses rather than disproportionate punishments.

Don't arrest for parole violations 

Passing legislation that would eliminate parole violations would go a long way toward keeping people out of prisons and jails who don't belong there.

New York City's Less is More Act is a great example of how to get that done. The act, if passed, would eliminate technical parole violations. The state's taxpayers spent million of dollars last year incarcerating folks for technical parole violations. New York wouldn't be the first to take steps that eliminate parole violations. After South Carolina adopted sanctions — which included disciplinary actions outside of incarceration — violations decreased and recidivism dropped. 

Permitting people to earn accelerated discharge off community supervision will responsibly shrink the number of people subject to such supervision, and allow us to concentrate our finite resources on those who are most in need of attention. 

We have tried punitive measures. We’ve gotten “tough on crime,” and what has resulted are broken people, shattered communities, and a system of courts, law enforcement divisions and prison operations that depend financially on the incarceration of Americans.

COLUMN: Former felons should not be pushed out of loans under CARES Act

We cannot continue this way and consider ourselves a free and peaceful society.

Committing to restorative justice and implementing reforms will restructure the justice system, reduce the burden on the taxpayer and extend the compassionate action that has been a rallying point during COVID-19.

We’ve learned during the pandemic that how we treat each other, whether down the hall or across town, impacts our collective freedom and health; it’s time to extend generosity and love to our neighbors who have been impacted by the justice system.

Ashish Prashar is a senior director of communications at Publicis Sapient.

More news & blogs

News

Transition Resource for Year 6/7 Pupils

By Alex McKell - Innovation Manager
Monday 27th July 2020
Blog

How do we effectively support vulnerable young people at risk of serious violent crime? In conversation with Jon Yates

By Alicia Edmund, Senior Communications and Policy Officer
Wednesday 1st July 2020
News

Put children and young people at the heart of coronavirus recovery

By Income and External Affairs Team
Tuesday 30th June 2020
News

Influencing policy, practice and ideas

By Ben Kernighan, Chief Executive
Tuesday 30th June 2020
News

Reflect, Connect & Direct: Reflection Pack for Prisoners

By Madeleine Weaver - Communications & Policy Officer
Tuesday 23rd June 2020
News

Leap's commitment to combatting racism

By Ben Kernighan, Chief Executive
Thursday 18th June 2020
Blog

Part 2: What does it mean to be trauma-informed in a post Covid-19 society?

By Sam Matthews, Director of Delivery
Monday 8th June 2020

Sign up for our latest news