The Columbia Justice Lab is pleased to welcome Jeremy Travis as a new Senior Fellow, beginning in July 2023.

Public alarm is growing in response to recent reports of the increasingly inhumane conditions at the Rikers Island jail complex in New York City. Reporting and footage of people being held in overcrowded and unsanitary cells has become common knowledge among many New Yorkers and has heightened awareness around ongoing advocacy efforts to accelerate the planned closure of Rikers Island.

Communities across the country are combating reactionary policy proposals aimed at increasing youth incarceration. These proposals are based on misleading rhetoric that frames crime as being “out of control,” without clearly articulating what the data really show.

On June 14, 2022, Columbia Justice Lab hosted a webinar exploring the facts about recent trends in crime and how communities are creating safety without relying on harmful carceral responses. The webinar contextualized recent trends and offered history, data, and real-world insights to counter regressive narratives.

Read an overview of the webinar and find related resources here

Watch a full recording of the event below

Harsh prison conditions have been widely examined for their effects on the mental health of incarcerated people, but few studies have examined whether mental health status exposes individuals to harsh treatment in the penal system. 

Testimony of Vincent Schiraldi, Senior Fellow, Columbia Justice Lab on behalf of nine New York City criminal legal system governmental leaders in favor of Closing the Rose M. Singer jail ("Rosie's") on Rikers Island and creating a stand-alone, Women's Center for Justice before the New York City Council Committee on Criminal Justice, June 28, 2022.

On May 19, the Columbia Justice Lab co-sponsored an important virtual forum on Fixing Rikers Island: A Federal Receivership? The federal monitor overseeing Rikers Island recently concluded that city jails are “trapped in a state of persistent dysfunctionality” with “imminent risk of harm to incarcerated individuals and staff.” This has led numerous knowledgeable city leaders to call for a receivership to bring a sense of urgency to improve safety at city jails for staff and incarcerated people alike. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York intimated that, if conditions did not improve soon, he might move for a receivership.

NEW YORK, NY – The Columbia Justice Lab’s Emerging Adult Justice Project (EAJP), with the support of the Colorado Department of Corrections, submitted a Report on February 1, 2022 to Colorado’s House and Senate Judiciary Committees making research-based recommendations to transform the state’s Youth Offender System (YOS). The report explains the impact of including young people up to age 25 who commit felony offenses in the YOS and how that expansion should be implemented. Making the changes recommended in the report will provide a greater number of youths more developmentally appropriate, fairer, and more effective justice responses, and will improve public safety.

NEW YORK, NY – On January 31, 2022 Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner announced that his office will turn its Emerging Adult Initiative, which began operating in October 2020, into a permanent unit. Specially assigned prosecutors, paralegals, and a Victim Witness Coordinator will work together to review misdemeanor and certain felony cases involving 18-25-year-olds (to the 26th birthday), to determine their eligibility for prosecution tailored to their distinct developmental stage. This approach is rooted in a robust body of research indicating that developmentally appropriate justice system responses to emerging adults are likely to be more effective and increase public safety.

Building on understandings of the violence, criminalization, and punitive excess within our current justice system, Bruce Western and Sukyi McMahon give an overview of essays in this issue of Dædalus that discuss eliminating mass incarceration and producing a new kind of community safety that strengthens social bonds and reckons with a history of racial injustice.

Bruce Western discusses the social costs and benefits of prisons through close examination of the harmful effects of overcrowding, violence, risk of mortality and infectious disease, and the lack of rehabilitation programming.

Researchers Hannah Pullen-Blasnik, Jessica T. Simes, and Bruce Western uncover distressing statistics of large racial disparities in Pennsylvania prisons that show Black men are far more likely to experience imprisonment, solitary confinement, and longer periods of solitary confinement compared to other demographic groups.

In the budget proposal that the White House released last Friday, President Joe Biden requested $796 million for juvenile justice programs and initiatives for fiscal year 2022, with $100 million to incentivize states to implement community-based alternatives to youth incarceration.

Criminal justice issues are at the forefront in New York City and nationally. The justice policies NYC’s next mayor pursues and prioritizes will determine the future of safety for our city as well as justice for all of our residents.

Columbia Justice Lab issues a statement on Vermont Governor Phil Scott’s recent retreat from groundbreaking youth justice reforms.

Mayor de Blasio has appointed Vincent Schiraldi as the new commissioner for the city’s Department of Correction, the Daily News has learned. [...]