The Justice Reinvestment Act: An Opportunity for Change and Progress in Maryland

by Sophie Breene

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Image available here.

On May 19, 2016, Governor Larry Hogan signed the Justice Reinvestment Act (JRA) into law, making Maryland the 26th state to pass some form of justice reinvestment legislation in the past ten years.[1] Beginning in October 2017, incarcerated individuals can petition the courts to start putting the law’s provisions into action.[2] The law came to pass after several rounds of bipartisan negotiations, and thus critics on both sides of the political spectrum argue that JRA does too much or not enough for criminal reform.[3] Despite its limitations, the new law will help to curb the cycle of incarceration that disproportionately hurts people living in poverty.

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Why the Congress Must Amend the Indian Child Welfare Act

by Dylan Byrd

The Supreme Court’s decision in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl dismantled vital protections for Native American children by unfairly limiting important federal statutes.[1]

In the 1970s, the federal government was in the process of removing one out of every three Native American children from their tribes and placing them in mainstream American institutions, foster homes, or adoptive homes.[2] To the average American child, the 1970s were enigmatic of the first Hollywood blockbuster or the grand opening of Walt Disney World. To the Sovereign Nation, this particular decade threatened to cripple its millennial generation, vis-à-vis state agencies’ removal of almost 40 percent of young Native children from their families.[3] This trend illustrates the government’s systematic denial of opportunities for Native American children to participate in their historic cultures, ideals, and experiences.

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Defend the Affordable Care Act, Lather, Rinse, Repeat

by Deborah Steinberg

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Photo by Deborah Steinberg

The Senate Gallery was packed for 1:00 a.m. on a bleak Thursday night, or more accurately Friday morning. It was a relief just to sit down, after we had been rallying outside the Capitol for six hours. Of course, these six hours were piled on top of night after night, week after week, of standing with disability rights groups, reproductive rights organizations, people fighting for transgender equality, and thousands of other individuals fighting to keep the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the current structure of Medicaid in place.[1] No one believed the 2010 law was perfect, but the ACA was the first successful effort to regulate the health insurance market and ensure that low- and middle-income families as well as people with pre-existing conditions could access affordable and comprehensive care.[2] So we had fought, seemingly nonstop, for months to prevent these consumer protections from being repealed, as the Republican Party had been promising to do for the seven years since Obamacare was signed into law. It had been a long summer.

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Backlash Against Proposition 47: Why the Criticism of California’s Criminal Justice Reform is Misguided

by Michael Waxman

In 2014, criminal justice reform advocates proclaimed the ballot initiative Proposition 47 a historic step toward transforming California’s beleaguered criminal justice system.[1] But in the years since, media outlets and law enforcement groups are lashing back at the law for increasing crime rates. However, this criticism is largely unfounded because there is little evidence that Prop. 47 has had a causal impact on crime. Moreover, critics have overlooked the law’s potential benefits from investing millions of dollars in treatment and services for low-income communities. Ultimately, Prop. 47’s success or failure in rehabilitating California’s justice system and revitalizing low-income communities will likely have major political and policy implications for criminal justice and poverty reform efforts at the local, state, and national level.

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Republicans Hurt Low Wage Workers by Overturning Obama Era Worker Protection Rule

In this blog post, Staff Editor Keith Taubenblatt reflects on the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule and its recent repeal.

By Keith Taubenblatt

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Photo available here.

Republicans in Congress and President Trump have done away with an important Obama era worker protection measure.[1] On July 31, 2014, President Obama signed Executive Order 13673, requiring companies seeking or holding federal contracts in excess of $500,000 to disclose their prior labor law violations to the government. EO 13673 was the Obama administration’s response to decades of evidence showing labor law violations by federal contractors, and it was an attempt to protect workers employed by those companies from hazardous working conditions and wage theft.[2] A significant number of the workers employed by federal contractors are low-wage earners most at risk for abuse by employers.[3] Nonetheless, Congressional Republicans and the President have deemed EO 13673 unnecessary to the protection of these vulnerable workers.[4] The evidence suggests that their judgment is flawed.

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How a Billionaire President Could Impact the Working Class

by Desiree Tims

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President Donald Trump Official Photo, available here

On November 8, 2016, the United States elected its forty-fifth President of the United States.[1] The historic presidential election of Republican Nominee, Donald J. Trump, who is a real-estate billionaire, sparked a national debate between those who support and oppose him due to his divisive campaign rhetoric and political inexperience.[2]

Polling data revealed that Trump received an overwhelming amount of support from working-class white voters.[3] Trump’s thematic “Make America Great Again” slogan was followed by his campaign promises to reinforce law and order, restrict immigration and reduce taxes.[4] Trump has many working-class supporters—some who yearn for the return of high-paying hourly factory jobs—as well as high-income supporters who deeply desire a change to the federal tax code.[5] Furthermore, Trump’s self-declaration as the “law and order candidate” has fueled the debate on criminal justice reform, racial disparities, and equitable application of law.[6]

President-elect Trump’s impact on working-class Americans remains to be seen, but here are three issues that could come to bear during his time in office:

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