Dr. Brian Charest, a professor at the University of Redlands, is a recognized expert on social justice, education reform, justice-oriented education, civic and community engagement, community organizing, grassroots education reform strategies, and the prison-to-school pipeline/disruption of the school-to-prison pipeline.
"It's great to see California out in front on attempting to reform the cash bail system. But this is just a first step that doesn't go far enough. We need to do more to ensure that everyone is truly equal before the law, which means not just putting an end to the criminalization of poverty, but putting an end to poverty in our communities. One's race and income should not dictate one's treatment by the justice system, but the truth is that these factors overdetermine what happens to people when they enter the justice system.
"An often overlooked fact is that rather than remain in jail, many people plead guilty to crimes they didn't commit, just so they don't have to sit in jail (sometimes for years) awaiting a trial. While we like to imagine that everyone is equal before the law, that justice is blind and that we hold everyone to the same abstract standard, this idea is dangerous in that it allows us to sidestep the racism and class bias that structure so much of what goes on in the justice system.
"Criminal justice reform and community building need to be understood as reciprocal, not separate, projects. If we want to keep people out of the criminal justice system, then we need to examine the conditions in our communities that lead people from one community down a path toward prison and people from another down a path toward college."
Charest holds a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago.