justice from the frontlines: May 1, 2023

D.C. Jail Residents Denied Life-Saving Care

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee filed a class action lawsuit against the D.C. Department of Corrections (DOC) for failing to provide adequate medical care to residents of a D.C. Jail. The lawsuit details how residents with serious medical conditions miss life-saving medication and wait months or years for medical attention. The suit seeks a court order to improve the jail’s medical care system, ongoing monitoring and enforcement, and compensation for damages. The DCist (Apr. 26, 2023)

VA’s Only Private Prison Future Uncertain

MPD police in DC.

The Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) is considering whether to renew its contract with GEO Group to run the Lawrenceville Correctional Center, the state’s only privately operated prison. The current contract, which has been in effect since August 2018 and ends on July 31, has cost the company $4.3 million due to persistent staffing shortages. Virginia Mercury (Apr. 26, 2023) 

From Postponements to Prolonged Incarceration

The backlog of cases in Virginia’s circuit court system has worsened during the pandemic, leading to individuals being jailed for extended periods. Factors contributing to the backlog include case continuances, multiple trials, and a lack of available court dates. The pandemic further disrupted trials, leading to postponements and a surge in plea bargains to secure release from jail. The Virginian-Pilot (Apr. 27, 2023)

Beyond Hidden Cameras, Allegations Multiply

More allegations have emerged against the West Virginia State Police beyond hidden cameras in the women’s locker room of abuse, harassment, and sexual misconduct. Additional allegations have also surfaced including improper sexual relationships with instructors, physical assaults, and evidence of a cover-up. WOWK (Apr. 26, 2023) 

Eight Years After Freddie Gray’s Death

Freddie Gray’s death eight years ago brought attention to racial injustice and police brutality in Baltimore. While the movement has faded, grassroots initiatives have emerged to address community needs. Redevelopment is underway at Mondawmin Mall, and the Baltimore Police Department has made progress in complying with a federal consent decree. Maryland also passed the Police Accountability Act, promoting officer accountability and transparency. The Baltimore Sun (Apr. 25, 2023) 

Adnan Syed Appeals Conviction

Adnan Syed, of the “Serial” podcast fame, has requested a Maryland appeals court to reconsider his reinstated conviction and sentence. Syed’s attorneys argue that the court failed to require the presence of Hae Min Lee’s brother at a crucial hearing. The Baltimore Banner (Apr. 26, 2023) 

in other news

The Justice Department’s second-highest-ranking official, Lisa Monaco, called for the eradication of sexual abuse in federal prisons during a nationwide training for prison wardens. This comes after AP investigations uncovered flaws within the federal Bureau of Prisons, including a permissive culture that enabled abuse. AP News (Apr. 26, 2023)

Bipartisan legislation introduced aims to strengthen oversight of federal prisons, including provisions for a prisoner hotline to report misconduct, federal watchdog inspections, and response plans. ABC News (Apr. 26, 2023)

California and Texas face challenges in their juvenile justice systems, with California’s Attorney General criticizing the unsafe conditions in Los Angeles County facilities, and Texas lawmakers considering an overhaul to address abuse and mismanagement. The Marshall Project (Apr. 15, 2023) 

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is taking action to terminate seven employees for failing to conduct proper checks on a 16-year-old boy who died by suicide in a prison cell. Despite a history of suicidal behavior, Joshua Keith Beasley Jr. had been transferred to the adult prison system. The Texas Tribune (Apr. 25, 2023)

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Lulia started working as a Research & Reporting Intern for The Des in January 2023. She is a third-year student at The University of Texas at Austin, majoring in Journalism, International Relations & Global Studies and East Asian Studies. Growing up in the US, Saudi Arabia, and China has given her a unique perspective on international relations and sparked her interest in understanding the ways in which technology impacts civil rights and privacy.

Before joining The Des, Lulia worked as an undergraduate researcher at the Global Disinformation Lab, where she gained valuable experience in researching and understanding the ways in which disinformation and emerging technologies impact policy. She hopes to continue gaining valuable experience and knowledge through her internship at The Des, and use this experience to further her career in journalism and public policy.