justice from the frontlines: May 8, 2023

DC crime lab’s independence at risk

Mayor Bowser proposed moving the Washington D.C. crime lab, which has faced a series of issues, from the Department of Forensic Sciences to the Metropolitan Police Department. However, experts and advocates warn that the move could compromise the lab’s impartiality, with council members being urged to preserve its independence to avoid increasing the risk of wrongful convictions and miscarriages of justice. (May 4, 2023) The DCist

Auto theft epidemic

Auto thefts in the DMV area are on the rise, with over 100,000 auto crimes committed since 2021, according to police records. Washington D.C. and Prince George’s County are seeing a significant increase in auto thefts this year, with the latter’s police data showing auto theft at 190% above last year’s pace. (May 1, 2023) ABC News

Judge’s conflict of interest

Three criminal cases will receive new hearings after their original sentences were handed down by a judge who had been discussing a job switch to the local prosecutor’s office. Recently retired Montgomery Circuit judge David Boynton began negotiations with the State’s Attorney’s office last year while still presiding over criminal hearings, without disclosing the job discussions or his subsequent agreement to take the position. (May 1, 2023) The Washington Post 

New detection measures

Virginia public schools are considering adding weapons detectors to combat school shootings. However, the effectiveness of current measures is in question, and the addition of new security measures comes at a cost. (May 4, 2023) Virginia Mercury

Red Flag Law funding in limbo

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration applied for federal funding worth $5 million last year, intended to assist the implementation of the state’s red flag law. However, no decisions have yet been made about how the funds may be used, and the governor’s stance on the issue remains unclear. (May 1, 2023) Virginia Mercury

Program helps veterans navigate criminal justice system

The Virginia Supreme Court authorized veterans’ treatment dockets to help veterans involved with criminal justice. Veterans in the program have to meet with local probation officers, do drug screening, receive service, and develop case and success plans with treatment providers. The program connects veterans with local, state, and federal resources. (May 4, 2023) Prince William Virginia Government Communications Office  

Federal assault

Two federal corrections officers working at United States Penitentiary Hazelton in West Virginia were charged with assault and civil rights violations after allegedly striking an inmate, causing significant injuries. (May 2, 2023) WV News

in other news

US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar demands action

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar condemns police violence, proposing a resolution condemning police brutality worldwide and advocating reallocating funding toward mental health programs and violence prevention. Omar mentioned that the “heightened scrutiny and spotlight on state-sanctioned violence on to Black bodies” has failed to curb police brutality. (May 3, 2023) The Guardian 

Lethal Injection Controversy

A Florida pharmacist’s testimony has been used to defend lethal injection protocols in executions across the country, despite having no authority to prescribe the drugs. (Apr. 29, 2023) ProPublica 

Reform advocates form “End the Trial Penalty Coalition”

Activists from 24 civil rights and criminal justice groups have formed the “End the Trial Penalty Coalition,” aimed at reforming sentencing practices to prevent individuals convicted at trial from facing lengthy prison sentences than those who accept plea deals. (May 3, 2023) Reuters 

Understaffed and overworked

Federal prisons across the United States are struggling with a staffing crisis due to low pay, which has led to the use of untrained employees and mandatory overtime, raising safety concerns for inmates and staff. (May 1, 2023) The New York Times

community board

+ posts

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.