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UCLA School of Law hosts event to discuss reformation of criminal justice system

Panelists, including professors, the new Los Angeles sheriff and activists, suggested solutions for issues such as mass incarceration and racial profiling by law enforcement. (Ashley Kenney/Daily Bruin)

By Mark Mcgreal

February 24, 2019 10:43 pm

Professors, activists and other authorities on criminal justice debated how to best resolve issues within the modern criminal justice system at an event Friday.

Panelists analyzed and suggested solutions for issues, such as mass incarceration and racial profiling by law enforcement, at the UCLA School of Law event.

Jennifer Mnookin, dean of the UCLA School of Law, said she thinks the event is important because the criminal justice system is currently undergoing various changes. She said she believes people with a vested interest in the criminal justice system are beginning to reevaluate and change the way things are done.

“The criminal justice system is undergoing a serious reconsideration by stakeholders in courthouses, prisons, the highest reaches of government and law schools, too,” Mnookin said.

In one panel, lawyers, a community activist and a sheriff discussed their personal views on the role of law enforcement in today’s society.

Alex Villanueva, the newly elected sheriff of Los Angeles County, said he thinks the current system encourages officers to arrest as many people as they can when they should be keeping the peace in the community.

Villanueva said he wants to fix the problem of mass incarceration by only imprisoning those who present a credible threat to the community.

“Our jail system should be designed specifically to isolate those who pose a physical harm to the community and probably nothing more,” Villanueva said. “That is a very narrow group of people.”

Devon Carbado, the associate vice chancellor of BruinX for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and a law professor, said he thinks while practices of overpolicing may be questionable, they are not necessarily illegal.

“There are many instances of problematic policing that are perfectly legal,” Carbado said.

Carbado added he believes the language of the Fourth Amendment allows police officers to perform actions that some people would consider problematic, including racial profiling or informally questioning a citizen without probable cause.

Carbado also said he believes police need to be held accountable not just for their illegal actions but also for their improper legal actions.

Others at the event said they think the police system should be done away with entirely instead of simply being reformed.

Anthony Robles, a representative of the Youth Justice Coalition, said he believes police are unnecessary because members within the community can learn to handle problems such as domestic violence intervention and overdose prevention without calling the police. YJC is an organization that aims to end mass incarceration and discrimination in the United States criminal justice system.

“I imagine the abolition of police,” Robles said.

Robles, who has previously been affiliated with gang activity, said while the police system may not be abolished anytime soon, he believes it will happen one day.

“Our grand vision is self-determination and that means we control our communities,” Robles said. “We hold our communities accountable and by that is how you create community power and community trust.”

Mnookin said while no solution is perfect, she believes there is a general consensus that something about the criminal justice system has to change.

“We don’t all agree on exactly what reform should look like or which reforms are most necessary or how, but I think it’s a moment when there is widespread interest in looking with seriousness at that set of questions,” Mnookin said.

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Mark Mcgreal
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