justice from the frontlines: May 15, 2023

D.C homicides surge to a decade-high

Homicides in the District of Columbia have risen by 9% compared to last year, reaching the highest level in the past decade, with 76 deaths so far. The city has implemented a multi-pronged approach to tackle the issue. However, recent shifts in focus towards the role of police and the courts have ignited debates on effective solutions. The DCist (May 10, 2023)

Change in D.C. pretrial detention laws

MPD police in DC.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser plans to introduce legislation detaining more people charged with violent crimes pending trial to address concerns about repeat offenders fueling crime spikes. The proposal, announced during a Public Safety Summit, aims to revise existing laws allowing pretrial release. The DCist (May 10, 2023)

Children behind bars

Maryland has one of the highest rates in the country of prisoners sentenced as children, with a significant racial disparity, according to a report by Human Rights for Kids. Of the 1,132 prisoners in Maryland who were incarcerated as children, 90% are people of color, with 81.3% being Black. The Baltimore Banner (May 10, 2023)

‘Characteristics of an Armed Person’

Following a Baltimore Police shooting that critically injured a 17-year-old, concerns have been raised about the police phrase used to justify the initial interaction. The officer approached the teen, believing he ‘displayed characteristics of an armed person’. However, community members argue that such phrases are used to justify stops based on hunches and contribute to harassment. The Baltimore Sun (May 12, 2023) 

Lengthening lockdown

The Board of Juvenile Justice in Virginia quietly approved new guidelines that extend the length of stay for youth in the state’s juvenile correctional center. The guidelines went into effect on March 1st. Critics argue that the extended stays do not contribute to public safety and can increase recidivism. The Richmond Times-Dispatch (May 7, 2023) 

$2.4 Million for active shooter response training

Virginia’s ALERRT program, which trains first responders and civilians to respond during active shooter emergencies, has received $2.4 million in funding. The program provides evidence-based training to law enforcement agencies and civilians statewide. WUSA 9 (May 11, 2023) 

W. VA closes legal gap on stalking crimes

West Virginia has closed a stalking loophole with the signing of Senate Bill 132 into law. The bill, which went into effect on May 2, officially recognizes stalking as a crime in the state. WBOY (May 8, 2023)

Study group for developmental patients

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) is addressing concerns regarding the placement of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) in state-run mental hospitals. Senate Bill 232 was passed to create a study group focused on recommendations for IDD patient diversion from prisons, jails, and court-ordered placements. The Parkersburg News and Sentinel (May 8, 2023)

in other news

Incarcerated individuals across the United States face higher prices for staple items such as peanut butter, soap, coffee, and toothpaste, while prison suppliers and departments of corrections profit from unregulated markups on items. The Marshall Project (May 2, 2023)

The White House has released a strategic plan to support rehabilitation and reentry of incarcerated individuals, while President Biden commuted sentences for 31 nonviolent drug offenders. ABA Journal (May 5, 2023) 

The Supreme Court’s ban on split-jury verdicts in serious crimes has resulted in divergent approaches, with Oregon reevaluating cases while Louisiana prosecutors resist, leaving prisoners affected by an unequal system and exacerbating racial disparities. NPR (May 14, 2023) 

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