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Most of the dialogue regarding sentencing reform centers on nonviolent offenses. Yet it is not necessary to limit reforms to those convicted of nonviolent or minor offenses. In order to truly address our nation’s prison problem, policymakers should also substantially revise policies affecting those serving long sentences, including life with and without parole. There are important legal, moral, fiscal and public safety reasons to do so.
For most of the 23 years Romarilyn Ralston spent in a California prison, she made 37 cents an hour, unable to afford crafty birthday cards for her two sons, let alone the financial support she desperately wanted to give them. Ralston did clerical and recreational work at the California Institution for Women in Chino, while voluntarily training women who have recently made national headlines for being on the front lines of the state’s biggest wildfires.
The violent events of the past week have placed the country at a decisive moment. Words matter but deeds matter more. Leadership matters. President Obama spoke about the need for real change and new “practices” following the murders by police officers of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Following this story is a Black Lives Matter statement on the murder of police and escalating protests to end state-sponsored violence against Black people.
From it's inception, the juvenile justice system has treated youth of color unfairly: When the first detention facility established a "colored section" in 1834, Black children were excluded from rehabilitation because it would be a "waste" of resources.