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Articles by Jean Trounstine

Fighting the Fees that Force Prisoners to Pay for Their Incarceration

by Jean Trounstine,

This past January, prisoners in Florida went on strike to protest what they called modern-day slavery in the state’s prisons. As of March, not only had the Florida Department of Corrections not responded to the demand for paid labor and improved living conditions, it had also ...

US Parole Activists Aim to Overhaul a Failing System

by Jean Trounstine, originally published September 30, 2017,

The United States has the shameful reputation of being the world's largest jailer, and as the Prison Policy Initiative reported in March, 2017, 2.3 million people are currently locked up in prisons and jails. This mass incarceration continues in spite ...

Brutal Crimes Don't Justify Bad Laws

By Jean Trounstine, Truthout

A true tragedy, driven by a media frenzy, often provokes a misguided need to do something as quickly as possible and leads to bad public policy - like California's Three Strikes sentencing law.

Massachusetts Juvenile Judge Jay D. Blitzman got it right when he explained in 2008 why brutal crimes so often lead to bad laws. In an article for the Barry Law Review he wrote: "As the public and media react to the crime du jour, there is an unfortunate tendency to legislate by anecdote." Stories gain momentum, get fueled in the press, and can be used for political advantage by the powers that be, and before we know it, the need for change, and in some cases, vengeance, turns too quickly into ill-conceived laws.

The Massachusetts Experience

This kind of political dynamite is exactly what exploded in Massachusetts this past year. First, in 2013, public outrage spread over the tragic killing of Danvers High algebra teacher Colleen Ritzer. Accused of first-degree murder and rape of his teacher, 14-year-old Philip Chism is now set to be tried as an adult, the norm for any Massachusetts juvenile charged with murder who has reached age 14.

Since ...