Monday, February 7, 2011

Gang Injunctions: Target Violent Criminals, Not Vulnerable Youth

The following information is reprinted from a flyer distributed by the ACLU - American Civil Liberties Union of Washington.  Get involved by going to the ACLU website and taking action.  This is the kind of legislation that disproportionately targets poor teens of color.

"Anti-gang" legislation being promoted by Attorney General Rob McKenna would make crime problems worse, targeting vulnerable youth for prison instead of giving them resources they need to stay out of gangs.  Instead of going after those committing violent crimes, the bill pushes expensive civil and criminal sanctions that could result in innocent people being arrested.  Even worse, youth sent to prison would meet and learn from real criminals. We can't afford this expensive distraction--we need a smarter approach to gangs.

We Know What Works to Tackle Gang Crime

Study after study across the nation shows what works to tackle gangs.  We need to arrest and charge kingpins--a relatively small number of individuals who are committing violent criminal acts.  But we can't arrest our way out of the problem--we also need to provide susceptible youth with alternatives to keep them out of gangs.

Injunctions Target and Jail the Wrong People

McKenna's legislation ignores these proven methods and targets vulnerable individuals who need help, not prison.  In addition to ratcheting up criminal penalties, it allows civil orders--known as injunctions--to be issued against people law enforcement thinks may be gang members.

McKenna is promoting these injunctions as a "kinder" alternative to criminal sanctions.  But they are just as bad, or worse--no attorney is provided to help teens defend themselves, the state need not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and factors such as who a teen hangs out with or how he dresses could land him on the list.  So innocent individuals will be swept into a broad net. And youth of color are impacted most heavily because the way they dress may fit gang stereotypes.

Jailing Vulnerable Youth Makes Crime Worse

Once an injunction is issued, a young person may be banned from being in an area and could be charged with a crime just for returning there--even if he had never committed any other crime.  But this approach only strengthens gangs by cutting off youth from the resources--like family members, jobs, sports, and school--they need to stay out of gang life.  And if they are arrested and charged with violating the injunction, they can be sent to adult prison, where they meet real criminals.  In fact, we will be using our precious public safety resources to send them to "gang school."

Injunctions Have Failed Elsewhere

California has tried the injunction approach for years, and it has failed.  There are no studies that show that injunctions reduce crime.  In fact, experts believe injunctions simply move crime to other areas.  Paying to shuffle crime around neighborhoods is a short-sighted approach that wastes money Washington doesn't have.

We Can't Afford this Bill

McKenna's "anti-gang" legislation uses methods that have failed repeatedly elsewhere. The bill makes crime worse--let's do what works instead.

Violent criminals should be arrested and jailed, and vulnerable youth should get resources to keep them out of gangs.  McKenna's bill does neither.  We can't afford this distraction--please vote against Rob McKenna's gang legislation.

3 comments:

  1. UPCOMING EVENT:

    A dialogue on the intersection of race and the criminal justice system

    February 15, 2011 | Noon to 1:30 pm
    Bertha Landes Room, Seattle City Hall
    Race and the Criminal Justice System
    2011 Equity & Social Justice Lecture Series

    Panelists:
    Judge Patricia Clark, King County Superior Court
    Gerald Hankerson, Community Activist, Board Member of NAACP
    Robert Chang, Director, Fred T. Korematsu Center, Seattle University School of Law

    The over-representation of people of color in the criminal justice system continues to persist despite years of attention. Fortunately, there are many people who work in the system who continue to look for new information and strategies to address this problem.

    This forum is designed to bring people together to share what is known about race and its intersection with the criminal justice system. Our goal is to start the conversation and help participants understand the connection between race and a person’s involvement in the criminal justice system and identify ways they can make an impact with the work that they do.

    Our panelists represent three unique voices that will stimulate the conversation:

    Judge Patricia Clark has been a frontrunner in addressing issues concerning racial disparities in the justice system for many years. She challenges current practices and has led many efforts to transform the juvenile justice and child welfare system. Judge Clark will share examples of work that is currently being done to address today’s challenges as well as what we still need to do.

    Gerald Hankerson will share his personal story of being in the wrong place at the wrong time which resulted in being accused of a crime he didn’t commit and spending 20 years of his life in prison. Noticing that most of his cellmates were African American like himself, most holding little hope for the future, Mr. Hankerson began organizing and becoming involved to disrupt what he saw as the cradle to prison pipeline.

    Robert Chang is the Director of the Fred T. Korematsu Center at the Seattle University Law School and oversees the Race & Criminal Justice Taskforce. Mr. Chang will describe what the taskforce is currently doing and what they hope to accomplish. He will also describe our current environment and open a discussion about race neutral policies and how policies and practices can impact racial disparities.

    The state of reducing budgets, a dwindling public trust in government, and a lack of cohesiveness across departments erodes our ability to eliminate racial disparities and meet the public’s demand for safer communities. By working together, we are more likely to make a positive difference for everyone in our community. Please join us!

    Educate. Inspire. Challenge.
    This workshop was coordinated by the King County Dept. of Community & Human Services, Equity & Social Justice Committee and Public Health, Diversity & Social Justice Group
    For more information, contact (206) 205-6703
    All are welcome but space is limited.
    Please RSVP by 02/14/11
    ericka.turley@kingcounty.gov
    (206) 205-6703

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