Buchen, Lizzie


Troubled Young People Deserve Compassion, Not Punishment

By Lizzie Buchen


Center on Juvenile & Criminal Justice

At the turn of the 20th Century, Lucy Flower, my grandmother’s great grandmother, established the world’s first juvenile court inside the Cook County courthouse in central Chicago.

Flower, who had been orphaned, was horrified by the misery and bleak futures of the city’s poorest children, and believed their criminal behaviors should be handled differently than that of adults. She and the other early “child-savers” viewed children and young teenagers as victims, neglected by their parents and by society, who still had the potential to get their lives on track. After finding success in Chicago, separate courts for young people, which focused on rehabilitation rather than punishment, were soon established nationwide.

Justice in California: Raising Victims' Voices

By Lizzie Buchen

Flipping through this year's proposed criminal justice legislation, it is hard to miss Crime Victims United (CVU), a seemingly-omnipresent victims' rights group that registers strong support for tough-on-crime legislation and adamant opposition to bills seeking to reform sentencing laws or reduce incarceration. Their stance is in line with the conventional wisdom that victims want vengeance and favor a punitive approach to criminal justice. But despite CVU's dominance in the media and in Sacramento, a new survey reveals that the group does not represent the majority of crime victims - who they are, what they need, or how they think about public safety.

Brown Can Release Prisoners Early Without Compromising Public Safety

By Lizzie Buchen

After a year of defying court orders to alleviate the state’s prison crisis, Gov. Jerry Brown seems to have finally pushed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to its limit. In an April 11 ruling, having already "exercised exceptional restraint," the exasperated federal judges declared the state "will not be allowed to continue to violate the requirements of the Constitution of the United States," giving Brown until May 2 to develop a plan that will reduce the prison population by nearly 10,000 people by the end of the year.

For Real Prison Reform, Longer is Not Always Better

By Lizzie Buchen

Last week, while defiantly declaring the end of California's prison crisis, Gov. Jerry Brown insisted further reductions in prison overcrowding "cannot be achieved without the early release of inmates serving time for serious or violent felonies," a move that would "jeopardize public safety." In other words, now that Realignment is sending low-level offenders to local custody instead of state prison, those who remain in prison need to stay there to protect the public.

This unfounded assumption is used to justify a large and growing mass of the state's unnecessary incarceration. Most serious and violent offenders do need to serve some time behind bars to protect the public, but we keep them there for far too long. And the terms are only getting longer. If California wants a sustainable solution to its prison crisis, it needs to rethink its increasingly harsh sentencing policies across the gamut of offenses - not just the low-level targets of Realignment and Prop 36.