justice from the frontlines:

May 22, 2023

Tougher Sentences and Limited Early Release

Mayor Muriel Bowser has proposed new legislation that includes measures to streamline the detention process for those accused of crimes, impose stricter penalties for gun possession, and make it more difficult for individuals convicted of serious crimes to secure early release from prison. The DCist (May 15, 2023)

Congress Blocks D.C. Police Reform Bill

The U.S. senate has voted after the congressional review period to repeal a D.C. police reform bill, joining the House in blocking the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Amendment Act. The bill, which includes provisions such as banning chokeholds and creating a public database of police misconduct, was already law in D.C. via temporary legislation. The DCist (May 16, 2023) 

Mom charged in court room outburst

Karen Hylton, the mother of Karon Hylton-Brown, who died in a police chase, has been charged with assaulting security personnel during a courtroom outburst following the conviction of two D.C. police officers involved in the incident. Hylton is yet to enter a plea, and her whereabouts are currently unknown. A warrant for her arrest will be issued if she fails to appear in court by May 30. The Washington Post (May 17, 2023)

Shipley Hill Police Shooting

Body-worn camera footage shows an officer shooting and injuring 17-year-old Mekhi Franklin from behind as he ran away with a gun. Detective Cedric Elleby fired four shots during the pursuit. Franklin’s mother confirmed his name and stated that he is in stable condition after undergoing surgery. The Baltimore Banner (May 16, 2023)

Aim for Change: Stricter Gun Laws

Maryland’s gun laws will become stricter as Governor Wes Moore signs measures limiting concealed carry permits and usage. The bills, a response to a Supreme Court ruling, prohibit carrying concealed handguns in certain locations, raise the age requirement, increase penalties, and expand training requirements. The Baltimore Banner (May 16, 2023)

Baltimore Students Speak Out

High schoolers affected by gun violence are expressing feelings of hopelessness and frustration, calling for more attention and understanding from city officials. Many students have experienced traumatic events related to gun violence, leading to anxiety and post-traumatic stress. They want the city to take stronger action to prevent firearms from reaching the wrong hands and provide more resources and opportunities for youth, including mentorship programs and critical skill training. The Baltimore Banner (May 19, 2023)

Privacy vs. Security

The Virginia Criminal Justice Services Board approved $1.6 million in grants for the purchase of license plate readers, despite concerns about privacy. The grants will enable 32 localities to acquire 212 devices as part of a broader funding allocation for law enforcement equipment and training. Virginia Mercury (May 15, 2023)

Fairfax County Police Reform

In the past 15 months, the Fairfax County Police Department in Virginia has experienced an increase in officer-involved shootings, eight total, prompting community leaders and lawmakers to examine department policies. A work group commissioned by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has released its recommendations, which include establishing more community oversight and granting independent investigating authority to a civilian review panel. The recommendations will be reviewed by Police Chief Kevin Davis and the board of supervisors. WTOP News (May 18, 2023)

Understaffed and Overlooked

West Virginia corrections officials highlighted severe staffing shortages in their facilities during a state legislative committee meeting. The Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation Executive Officer Brad Douglas revealed that eight facilities had officer vacancy rates exceeding 40%, emphasizing the pressing staffing issues. However, little attention was given to overcrowded jails and prisons. Scrutiny of West Virginia’s correctional system has intensified due to increasing inmate deaths, with calls for an independent civil rights investigation. Charleston Gazette-Mail (May 20, 2023)

in other news

Police Accountability and Child Welfare

A video showing an NYPD officer pushing a father holding a toddler has sparked concerns about police use of force in the presence of children and the role of the city’s child welfare agency in custody cases involving arrests. Gothamist (May 15, 2023) 


Rachael S. Rollins, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, announced her resignation ahead of the release of a Justice Department inquiry into her conduct, including her appearance at a Democratic fundraiser, which later expanded to include her use of a personal cellphone for official business. The New York Times (May 16, 2023)

Black Victims and Families Disproportionately Denied Support

Black victims and their families are disproportionately denied compensation by state programs for crime victims. Investigation that found high denial rates in 19 out of 23 states examined, revealing systemic bias in the criminal justice system’s response to racial disparities. Associated Press News (May 17, 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.