[Co-authored with Trevor Burrus)
The Justice Department recently announced that it is resuming the “equitable sharing” part of its civil asset forfeiture program, thus ending one of the major criminal justice reform victories of the Obama administration.
Civil asset forfeiture is a legal tool by which police officers can seize and sell private property without a convicting the owner of any crime, and equitable sharing is a process by which state and local police can circumvent state restrictions on civil asset forfeiture and take property under the color of federal law.
It may sound like a scene from a dystopian novel, but under civil asset forfeiture, a police officer can pull you over, claim he smells marijuana, and then take all the cash you have — and maybe even your car, too. Getting your property back requires going through lengthy court procedures to prove that the property is “innocent.”
Back in December, after Congress enacted reductions to the Justice Department’s civil asset forfeiture fund by $1.2 billion, the Justice Department announced that the program was being deferred until further notice.
Read the rest on The Detroit News, here.
Clergy for Prison Reform, a group of faith leaders from throughout the state, recently released a policy platform concerning pending legislation related to criminal justice. The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi fully supports its platform.
Rather than measuring success by projecting reduced costs, CPR is speaking from a moral platform that demands immediacy. CPR’s moral authority is important because it humanizes incarcerated individuals, their families and their communities, and we hope that serves as an important reminder to lawmakers that inconvenient topics shouldn’t be set aside for next session. Justice delayed is, in fact, justice denied.
Read the rest on Jackson Free Press, here.
Mississippi’s Legislature doesn’t appear to be taking continued criminal justice reform seriously. It’s almost as if — in the minds of many state representatives and senators —HB 585 was the first and last step of “comprehensive” criminal justice reform. Rehabilitative programs and reentry reforms aren’t gaining the traction they should in the Capitol.
I wholeheartedly agree with Chief Vance’s position that judicial discretion should be restored to the criminal justice system, but I was puzzled by his assertion that prosecutors should have more discretion.
Read the rest on The Clarion Ledger, here.