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.

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Yoga helping inmates transcend jail cells [KEYT - Santa Barbara]

An ancient spiritual practice is helping rehabilitate men and women at the Santa Barbara County Jail. Prison Yoga Santa Barbara (PYSB) invites inmates to practice yoga, meditation and mindfulness during incarceration at no cost to taxpayers.

Ginny Kuhn is the force behind the non-profit staffed by volunteers. The program is modeled after The Prison Yoga Project which was started yogi James Fox at California’s San Quentin State Prison 15 years ago.

Kuhn's motto for PYSB is 'Working Freedom from the Inside'.

"I just wanted to touch an underserved population," Kuhn said.  "I went to teach a class and I was blown away at how receptive and appreciative the women were."

A female inmate said, "It gets me out of my head, you know like, I get peace and comfort, especially being in here. "Yoga really does help me. It just settles, my mind, my body, my soul."

Studies show a majority of people incarcerated are dealing with unresolved trauma which leads to impulsive and reactive behaviors, drug and alcohol abuse.

Kuhn said empirical data shows yoga and meditation are effective in reducing anxiety, stress, violence and depression.

Kuhn and volunteer Mike Lewis also teach classes to male inmates.

"There really is no separation. We're the same," Lewis said. We're both human beings. Just like I am deserving of serenity and peace of mind, so is he."

Complete news report HERE and to learn more about the program HERE

Exploring Mass Incarceration as a Societal Problem []

Activists and policymakers often rattle off figures to get Americans to care about their country's mass-incarceration problem: More than two million people are locked up in prisons and jails in the United States. In state prisons, African-American men are imprisoned at a rate around five times higher than that of white men. The U.S. accounts for a little over 4 percent of the world's population, yet holds 21 percent of the world's prison population. But PBS's new documentary The Prison in Twelve Landscapes takes a different approach: Leaving the statistics behind, it puts a spotlight on settings that demonstrate prison culture's effects outside of the bars, from playgrounds to the Black Lives Matter movement.

[For more of this story, written by Kristina Kutateli, go to]

LA to receive $36 million for programs to keep people out of jail (

Nearly $36 million will flow into L.A. County to fight recidivism over the next few years, money all saved by sending fewer people to prison for drug and property crimes.

California voters passed Proposition 47 in 2014, downgrading many drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, meaning offenders would no longer go to state prison. The authors of the initiative promised that it would yield savings from the state an that the money would be reinvested in programs designed to cut recidivism and prevent entry to the criminal justice system.

The shift in resources is a chance to invest in community programs aimed at preventing people from entering or reentering the criminal justice system and also a chance to see if such programs deliver on their goals.

In Los Angeles, that will mainly mean services aimed at people in the criminal justice system with mental illnesses and/or substance abuse disorders. It'll also include reentry services that prepare former jail inmates for the workforce and help reunite them with family. Espizona said some of these strategies are tied in with L.A.'s larger efforts to get homeless individuals out of the justice system and into supportive housing.

To read more of Rina Palta's article, please click here.



At $75,560, housing a prisoner in California now costs more than a year at Harvard (

The cost of imprisoning each of California’s 130,000 inmates is expected to reach a record $75,560 in the next year.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1 includes a record $11.4 billion for the corrections department while also predicting that there will be 11,500 fewer inmates in four years because voters in November approved earlier releases for many inmates.

The price for each inmate has doubled since 2005, even as court orders related to overcrowding have reduced the population by about one-quarter. Salaries and benefits for prison guards and medical providers drove much of the increase.

The result is a per-inmate cost that is the nation’s highest — and $2,000 above tuition, fees, room and board, and other expenses to attend Harvard.

To read more of the Associated Press article, please click here.

Why Jails Are Booming (

A new report from the Prison Policy Initiative shows that the populations of local jails are swelling for reasons that have little to do with crime.

State prison rates have come down modestly overall, reports the Sentencing Project, and some states can boast double-digit decreases since the turn of the century.

City and county jails, meanwhile, have been bloating. Roughly two-thirds of states have seen jail populations at least double since 1983 a dozen have seen jail populations triple.

Even many of those jailed for actual criminal convictions have likely landed there because of failures in the health care system or because other safety nets have given out. The report finds that 65 percent of those incarcerated in jails have diagnosable substance abuse disorders, while another 15.3 percent of those jailed report being homeless.

To read more of Brentin Mock's article, please click here.

Addressing Social Justice with Compassion (

Professor Rhonda Magee is a faculty member at the University of San Francisco law school, an expert in contemplative pedagogy, the President of the Board of the Center for Contemplative Minds in Society, and a teacher of mindfulness-based stress reduction interventions for lawyers and law students. She has spent her career exploring the interrelationship between law, philosophy, and notions of justice and humanity. Having grown up in a segregated North Carolina, Magee developed an early interest in racial and social justice, as well as a deep sense of spirituality and inner work - both aspects of her personal life that profoundly inform her daily work. In this Awakin call conversation, with Preeta Bansal, Professor Magee shares of her commitment to inner transformation work, and the role of the inner dimensions in "ensouling" the justice system and resolving conflicts. You can read or listen to the full version of the here.

Sujatha Baliga: The theme for today's interview is addressing social and racial justice with compassion. Our guest this week is law professor and mindfulness teacher, Rhonda Magee. Preeta Bansal will be moderating today's interview She is an illustrious lawyer with an incredible history of working in the White House and in many other high-level positions across both private and public sectors.

Preeta: I believe many students come to law school to ensure civil rights work; feeling like the world has not been entirely just, feeling like they want to make a difference and want to change the world. For them to then be exposed to someone like you telling them; Yes  we need to change the world but maybe we also need to change our hearts and to learn to love and be compassionate.

Rhonda: There are some students that know justice is part and parcel of love. If we are going to shift from injustice to justice in some way compassion has to be a part of that; in some way opening our hearts, not just our systems.

Having done this work for many years I have turned to the Master Teachers of human history for guidance, from Gandhi, the Buddha and Thich Nhat Hanh who talked about and embodied teachings that met people where they were; their teachings engaged both the intellectual mind and took the system and challenged it on its terms in the quest for justice that which never has left the heart behind. I include Jesus in this model as well. Bringing a heartful engagement with the suffering that is happening under the current system this is the system you've created and this is the suffering that is happening under that system. The system itself is part of that problem.

To read more of the Awakin Call Editors' article, please click here.

Banning in-person jail visits is foolish and needlessly cruel (

As a movement has taken hold to get California’s jails and prisons to operate more efficiently while releasing inmates who are better able to successfully reenter society, there have been occasional steps in the opposite direction. One of the most destructive has been a trend to ban in-person visits by family and friends.

Some county jails have gone as far as eliminating visitation rooms, where higher-security inmates speak on phones to their visitors while seeing them, face-to-face, through glass barriers. Some have ended visits in which lower-security inmates can hug their children, parents and spouses. Plans have moved forward for new jails that don’t even include space for such visits, except by the inmates’ attorneys.

Offered in place of inmate visits is video conferencing. Sheriffs argue that video provides fewer security risks and fewer opportunities for contraband, like drugs, weapons and cellphones, to be passed to inmates. And besides, some argue, video is cheaper.

Mountains of evidence and decades of experience demonstrate that inmate contact with family and friends — direct, face-to-face contact — helps to repair and retain the ties that are crucial to the inmates’ successful return to normal life once their terms are completed. Visits help curb inmate discipline problems and jail violence. They are correlated with lower recidivism and better odds of post-incarceration employment. Eliminating that contact is foolish. Charging for “visits” that can take place only by video is unconscionable.

To read more of The Times Editorial Board's article, please click here.

Zuckerberg-Backed Data Trove Exposes the Injustices of Criminal Justice (

AMY BACH WAS researching her book about the US court system when she met a woman named Sharon in Quitman County, Mississippi. One July day in 2001, Sharon said, her boyfriend took her under a bridge and beat her senseless with a tire iron. Sharon passed out numerous times before her niece intervened and stopped the man from killing her. In photosfrom the emergency room after the attack, Sharon's brown, almond-shaped eyes are swollen shut. She reported the crime to the police, who wrote up an aggravated assault report.

And then nothing happened. Neither the police nor the local prosecutors pursued the case. As Bach's research later revealed, Quitman County hadn't prosecuted a domestic violence case in 21 years. When Bach brought her discovery to the prosecutor, she remembers him saying, "Has it been that long?"

Compelled by the experiences of Sharon and so many others collected in her 2009 Ordinary Injustice, Bach set off on a multi-year, labor-intensive effort to build a free, public tool that would make the many injustices in the court system a little bit tougher to ignore. Measures for Justice today with deep data dives on more than 300 county court systems in Washington, Utah, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Florida, with plans to expand to 20 states by 2020. It pulls together the data that has traditionally remained hidden in ancient databases and endless Excel spreadsheets.

Even with just six states included, the comprehensiveness of the platform surpasses anything similar that currently exists. Measures for Justice compiles granular data for 32 different metrics that indicate how equitable a given county's justice system might be. The portal shows, for instance, how many people within a county plead guilty without a lawyer present, how many non-violent misdemeanor offenders the courts sentence to jail time, and how many people are in jail because they failed to pay bail of less than $500. It offers insight into re-conviction rates and never-prosecuted cases. Users can compare counties or filter information based on how certain measures impact people of different races or income levels. And the site organizes all of it into easily digestible data visualizations.

To read more of Issie Lapowsky's article, please click here.

Visit Measures for Justice website here.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) speaks out about Community Violence and Introduces TIC Bill []

It is noteworthy that in his press conference to introduce his new bill, The Trauma Informed Care for Children and Families Act, Senator Durbin (D-IL) speaks out about the impact of community violence.

“As we work to address the root causes of violence, we need to focus on the impact that community violence and other traumatic experiences have on Chicago’s children,” said Durbin.  “During a visit to the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center last year, I learned that more than 90 percent of youth in the facility had one thing in common: each had experienced trauma earlier in his or her life.  Childhood exposure to traumatic events can alter a child’s brain chemistry and without the right help may manifests in a variety of ways: trouble paying attention, acting out in class, depression, fear, anger, or fighting.  In the long run, unaddressed trauma can impact mental and physical health, school success, income, employment, and can contribute to a continued cycle of violence.  Our bill recognizes the ripple effect that trauma can have and seeks to provide our children with the support to address their emotional scars.  Each and every child in Chicago deserves no less.” 


Montana Prison Report: 7 out of 10 female inmates committed non-violent crimes []

Women are being incarcerated at a higher rate than ever in Montana and across the nation and most of them are serving time for non-violent crimes.

Twila Johnke, 36, has been in and out of prison since 2001 for crimes of forgery, drug possession, and distribution.

Like most of the inmates at the Montana Women’s Prison, Johnke is serving time for a non-violent crime.

In fact, a 2017 Montana Corrections report revealed that seven out of 10 women, compared to three out of 10 men, are locked up for non-violent crimes.

Since 2008, the number of women in prison has grown 34 percent. The rate of incarceration for men has increased 8 percent.

Natasha Martin, 41, is just a few months in to her 5-year sentence for a drug and alcohol-related crime.

[For more of this story, written by Aja Goare, go to]