The Center for Justice Research works directly with policy makers, practitioners and community groups to create a more equitable criminal justice system for everyone.
Our data-driven research and culturally responsive solutions to complex systemic issues within America’s criminal justice system is seen, heard and examined by decision-makers.
We believe our criminal justice system should be equitable, and that resources should be focused on rehabilitation and health, as opposed to over-policing and mass incarceration.
CJR advocates for reimagining the police in a manner that works with vulnerable communities, and focuses on public health instead of social control. Some of CJR’s work involving police reforms include:
- Our National Police Reform Advisory Group consisting of justice experts who serve as our technical advisors on research and programmatic needs.
- A series of Police Reform Action Briefs, with our first one calling for a national ban on police chokeholds. More Action Briefs will be released with reforms calling for a national database tracking police misconduct; more training for police, and reallocating police funds.
- Police reform is underway in Houston with the Mayor’s Task Force on Policing Reform. Proposals to reimagine police in Houston are under discussion and are expected to affect policy in the future.
Across the country, criminal justice institutions have turned to a data-driven movement to drive down inequities, squelch rising prison populations, reduce recidivism, save billions of dollars and reduce the crime rate. The criminal justice system has begun to utilize predictive assessments to allocate resources to likely crime hotspots and to predict the likelihood of reoffending.
Reports have shown that the underlying algorithms of the predictive assessments are hampered by weak measures of predictive equity and unexamined levels of racial bias. As such, our focus is on determining predictive bias and developing a racial/ethnically equitable approach to identifying risk and needs.
Cash bail disproportionately punishes Blacks, the poor and various communities of color, incarcerating hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people for nonviolent crimes. An estimated 465,000 people are incarcerated pretrial because they are unable to pay a cash bond, which can lead to joblessness, homelessness, and a cascade of other issues as those who cannot make bail await trial.
The Federal District Court found in 2011 that 70 percent of white misdemeanor defendants in Harris County obtained early pretrial release from detention but only 52 percent of Latino misdemeanor defendants and 45 percent of Blacks obtained early pretrial release. Ending cash bail for nonviolent offenses and lower-level charges also saves lives as 55 people who could not afford bail died in Harris County awaiting trial between 2009 and 2015.
Reserving cash bail for violent crimes and serial offenders will alleviate pressure on a continually strained justice system. We believe bail reform should include:
- An ongoing effort to reduce the incarcerated population is a public health priority due to the prevalence of COVID-19 in our prisons.
- Punishments should fit the crime. Incarcerating someone who is not a flight risk nor a danger to others for nonviolent crimes up to their trial is an injustice.
- Texas legislators need to avoid the false narrative that bail reforms have led to increase in arrests for reoffenders. It has not.
Drug abuse and addiction is a public health crisis, especially for vulnerable communities. Drug overdoses among Black Americans is soaring during the pandemic, with resources to treat addiction often too expensive or not available in certain communities.
As attitudes on drugs continue to shift and become legalized in more states, so too must attitudes from judges, prosecutors and legislators. Marijuana should be decriminalized nationationally and more resources should be available to treat drug addictions. CJR advocates for a new approach to drugs, including:
Ending the War on Drugs, which has been used as a justification to over-police Black communities.
Reviewing cases of those who are incarcerated on marijuana charges, potentially releasing them.
Transfer those suffering from drug addiction to treatment facilities instead of prisons.
Create more roles for crisis intervention specialists instead of calling police to handle a health issue.
Interested in Reforming Criminal Justice?
The Center’s researchers turn data into solutions. Houston, Texas, has the third largest criminal justice system in America, giving our researchers opportunities to investigate problems and solutions to the complexities of criminal justice reform. From initial contact to re-entry into society, the Center for Justice Research advocates for reform in culturally sensitive and approachable solutions.
CJR is always open to working with new collaborators. To learn more about a potential partnership, please contact CJR at Justice.Research@tsu.edu or call us at (713)313-7813.