ACEs in the Criminal Justice System

Discussion and sharing of resources in working with clients involved in the criminal justice system and how screening for and treating ACEs will lead to successful re-entry of prisoners into the community and reduced recidivism for former offenders.

Recent Blog Posts

North Dakota’s Norway Experiment (

Late one night in October 2015, North Dakota prisons chief Leann Bertsch met Karianne Jackson, one of her deputies, for a drink in a hotel bar in Oslo, Norway. They had just spent an exhausting day touring Halden, the maximum-security facility Time has dubbed "the world's most humane prison", yet neither of them could sleep.

Halden is situated in a remote forest of birch, pine, and spruce with an understory of blueberry shrubs. The prison is surrounded by a single wall. It has no barbed wire, guard towers, or electric fences. Prisoners stay in private rooms with en suite bathrooms and can cook for themselves in kitchens equipped with stainless-steel flatware and porcelain dishes. Guards and inmates mingle freely, eating and playing games and sports together. Violence is rare and assaults on guards are unheard of. Solitary confinement is almost never used.

The Norway sojourn was the brainchild of Donald Specter, executive director of the Prison Law Office, a California public-interest law firm. In 2011, while visiting European prisons with a group of Maryland college students, Specter was struck by how profoundly the experience altered their views on incarceration. He decided to use some of the legal fees his office had won in its lawsuits against California prisons to bring state corrections chiefs, judges, and lawmakers on similar journeys.

Screenshot (2696)The Norwegian principle of "dynamic security" posits that warm relationships between inmates and staff reduce the potential for violence. American prisons typically try to create safe conditions by means of oppressive rules, random searches, and the threat of additional punishment. Transitioning from one approach to the other requires a profound paradigm shift and the ability to sell front-line prison workers on a brand new mindset. "How do you get somebody who thinks they're in law enforcement to figure out you need to be more of an empath, more of a social worker, a friend, and a mentor?" Jackson asks.

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To read more of Dakasha Slater's article, visit,

Residents praise correctional re-entry program, as Gov. Bullock pays a visit []

BOULDER - As part of a national initiative to spotlight successful correctional programs, Gov. Steve Bullock visited the Riverside Correctional Facility here – and heard nothing but praise from women in its re-entry program.

“I want people to feel the energy I’ve gotten, to feel the compassion that I’ve gotten,” said Darci Hill of Billings. “I mean, the other places that I’ve been, they put you in your room and you stay in your room, and if you cry, you cry all night. … These people lift you up.”

Hill and two other women said they’d gone through multiple other programs in Montana’s correctional system, run by private contractors and the state, but had experienced none as positive as the Riverside Recovery and Re-Entry Program, which is run by the Department of Corrections.

“We’re always doing things here; we’re taking action,” said Kayte Mutrie of Helena, who graduated from the program and now has a job as a park ranger, which she had before getting in trouble with the law. “It’s not just about sitting around and wallowing in what you did wrong, why you’re bad.

“There’s so much shame attached to addiction. And here, I just felt like I was valued for who I was as an individual.”

[To read more of this story by Mike Dennison, go to]

Humboldt County Jail speaker series aims to inspire inmates (

The Humboldt County Correctional Facility is trying to inspire their inmates by introducing them to speakers who have changed their own lives.

The Hope and Resiliency Speaker Series is a volunteer based program that invites influential community members to come share their stories of redemption.

Three of the four speakers for the series have even been incarcerated themselves.

To read the News Channel 3 article, please click here.

Kentucky Eyed as Model for Reforming California’s Costly Bail System (

It's rare that a California lawmaker seeking a policy model to follow would turn to Kentucky. But with the Legislature on summer recess, that's precisely what Sen. Bob Hertzberg is doing.

The mission: travel to the Bluegrass state to investigate how Kentucky gets its defendants awaiting trial to show up for court dates and keep them from committing crimes - all without locking them up. Civil rights advocates point to Kentucky as a shining example of reform, and Hertzberg, a Democrat who represents the Los Angeles suburb of Van Nuys, is convinced California ought to take notice.

The concern about excessive bail, along with jail overcrowding, have led a growing number of states and local jurisdictions to embrace the risk assessment idea. Those who have created their own pretrial services include not only Kentucky but also Arizona, Colorado, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Across the state's jails, there are twice as many "unsentenced" inmates than those who are serving a sentence after conviction, according to Jail Profile Survey data made available by the Board of State and Community Corrections website. A query showed 48,349 un-sentenced inmates compared to 25,111 who had been convicted as of December 2016, the most recent figures available.

To read more of Samantha Young's article, please click here.

In Chicago, Another Public Housing Experiment: Prisoner Reentry []

For the past several years, three residents of St. Andrew’s Court, a halfway house on Chicago’s west side, have waited patiently for a spot in Chicago’s public housing system. Bobby Flowers, Jimmy Edwards*, and John Stamps are among the nearly 282,000 Chicagoans who registered for affordable housing assistance when the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) waitlist last opened in November 2014. In past waitlist cycles, these men would not have had a shot at CHA housing because all three are ex-offenders who moved into St. Andrew’s upon their release from prison.

Since HUD adopted the “One Strike and You’re Out” Rule in 1996, people with criminal records have been effectively—if not always explicitly—banned from public housing. Since that time, incarceration rates have risen steadily as a result of the War on Drugs, mandatory minimum sentencing, and other tough-on-crime policies. Upon release, inmates typically move back to the same urban neighborhoods they came from but are barred from most forms of public assistance as well as employment and educational opportunities because of their record.

[For more of this story, written by Madeleine Hamlin, go to]

Taking on the Private Prison Industry’s Corporate Backers []

In the months since President Trump took office we’ve heard a lot about crackdowns on undocumented immigrants and the return of law and order. In fact, as The Atlantic recently reported, the administration is scaling up use of high-tech methods of tracking down what it deems the criminal immigrant class. In addition, the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions has walked back an Obama-era vow to step down use of private prisons, and his “four-sentence memo rescinding Justice Department guidance to reduce the use of private prisons sent stock soaring for the two companies that dominate the industry, Geo Group and CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America).”

It was in the early 1980s that Corrections Corporation of America first broached the concept of for-profit prisons. Now the company’s offspring has seen its share price rise and anticipates an uptick in federal use of its services. Sarah Jaffe spoke with two activists who are trying to combat both the accelerated tracking of immigration and the use of for-profit prisons about an action they held in New York City on Wednesday. Their targets are not the prison companies themselves, but the big banks that prop them up. José Lopez is one of the co-organizing directors at Make the Road New Yorkand Daniel Altschuler is the organization’s director of civic engagement and research.

[For more of this story, written by Sarah Jaffe, go to]

A Prison With No Walls (

To be clear, inmates at Moriah do not receive shock therapy, as its formal name seems to infer. Rather, non-violent felons, like DiSilvestre, are shocked by therapeutic social programs and military-style schedules designed to lower recidivism rates.

Still, there are two shock programs in New York that have proven effective and have drawn praise from state department heads, academics well-versed on military-style prisons and inmates. The prisons boast both lower recidivism rates and lower costs. Advocates say it's because of their focus on social programs and therapy, rather than just military drills and discipline.

Interviews with current Moriah inmates, people formerly held at Lakeview and Moriah, and incarceration experts reveal that there are several factors that make New York's program different. For one, the facilities themselves are unique. Unlike other prisons with towering three-story-high walls and guard posts with armed corrections officers, there's very little of that at Lakeview and none at Moriah.

Secondly, the New York prisons operate what are considered "second generation" shock programs, according to a report by the Department of Justice. New York shifted the focus from boot camp prisons, which were proven ineffective in the mid-1990s, to incarceration facilities that focus on therapy and education. Moriah and Lakeview's success, even when others have failed, seems to be how they merge discipline with education and self-based treatment, which is different from typical prisons, which offer very few if any therapy programs.

To read more of Joseph Darius Jaafari's article, visit,


Incarceration, Addiction & Homelessness: The Problem with the U.S. Foster Care System

I was recently asked to be on the Incarcerate US podcast that is hosted by Dante Nottingham, an inmate who has been locked up since the age of 17. As you may know, incarceration in the US is at extreme levels and touches a wide variety of social issues, topics and dilemmas.

At Incarcerate US, they believe that the solutions to our incarceration problems reside within the minds and hearts of the people. So the aim of our Incarcerate U.S. podcast is to interview a wide array of people across America to learn about how incarceration has affected them, get their perspective and the solution to our hyper-incarceration crisis and to link us all together to create one loud, unmistakable and unignorable voice.

It was one of the best interviews that I got to be a part of. Helping those involved in the criminal justice system, understand trauma and its long-lasting impacts is a true privilege, and understanding Dante's own story of spending his youth incarcerated and trying to understand the core of his own anger is a cause worthy of us all. 

I encourage you to listen to my interview and the work that Dante is accomplishing from behind prison walls. 

Listen Now at: Incarceration, Addiction, Homelessness and the Foster Care Problem with Shenandoah Chefalo -



The Life of a South Central Statistic []

What sets the course of a life? Three years before my beloved cousin’s murder—before the weeping, before the raging, before the heated self-recriminations and icy reckonings—I awoke with the most glorious sense of anticipation I’ve ever felt. It was June 29, 2006, the day that Michael was going to be freed. Outside my vacation condo in Hollywood, I climbed into the old white BMW I’d bought from my mother and headed to my aunt’s small stucco home, in South Central. On the corner, a fortified drug house stood like a sentry, but her pale cottage seemed serene, aglow in the morning sun. Poverty never looks quite as bad in the City of Angels as it does elsewhere.

[For more of this story, written by Danielle Allen, go to]

Kamala Harris Went to Prison So Others Won’t Have To []

Democratic up-and-comer Kamala Harris visited just about every corner of California during her successful 2016 campaign to take over Barbara Boxer’s seat in the US Senate, and she’s kept it up somewhat since taking office. But on a recent, sweltering July afternoon, I accompanied Harris to a place where no senator has set foot for at least a decade.

The Central California Women’s Facility, which houses nearly 3,000 inmates, is tucked amid the farmlands of Chowchilla, about three hours from San Francisco—where Harris was elected district attorney in 2003. The first black woman in that role, Harris was keenly attentive to iniquities in the prison system. Now, despite the near-daily scandals roiling Washington, criminal justice reform remains her top legislative priority—hence the field trip. “I like to go to the scene,” Harris tells me. “I like to go out there, I like to see it, I like to smell it, hear it, feel it so that I can get an intuitive sense, as well as a theoretical or intellectual sense, of what’s going on.”

[For more of this story, written by Jamilah King, go to]