Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bates, shown at a news conference earlier this year. (Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun via AP, File)

justice from the frontlines: July 23, 2023

public safety bill signed in D.C.

Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the Prioritizing Public Safety Emergency Amendment Act of 2023, which expands pretrial incarceration for both adults and juveniles who have committed violent crimes. It will grant police officers more access to private security cameras purchased through the District’s rebate program. There has been an array of responses to the bill. Many argue that the bill will not prevent crime. Police director for the Georgetown Juvenile Justice Initiative said that detention is counterproductive and can encourage youth to further engage in criminal behavior.  DC News Now (July 20, 2023)

quality-of-life citation back in Baltimore

Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bates, shown at a news conference earlier this year.

Quality-of-life citations are making a come-back in Baltimore’s city courts after the State’s Attorney Ivan Bates began re-prosecuting them. Bates recalled the non-prosecution policy in order for greater accountability in petty crimes and offenses. The state attorney seeks to grant defendants with “wrap around services,” like drug treatment and housing resources, in order to offer accountability and help. There has been backlash in response to the policy. Its opponents argue that it furthers consequences when individuals are cited more than once and distracts from community-based efforts to support individuals dealing with poverty, mental illness, and substance use issues. The Daily Record (July 19, 2023)

ANC scheduled for transfer to Kentucky prison

Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Leonard Bishop (7F08) after receiving a food handling certificate.

Leonard Bishop, the incarcerated advisory neighborhood commissioner, said that he is scheduled to transfer back to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons penitentiary in Kentucky. Bishop claims that he has not been given any explanation for the transfer and asked to be “afforded the opportunity to carry out his elected term as ANC Commissioner of 7F08.” Over his term, he advocated for the rights of incarcerated people to testify during D.C. Council hearings. In D.C., he has enrolled in classes through Georgetown University and Ashland University and has stepped up as a mentor in the Lead Up program. When he returns to the BOP, he will no longer have access to college classes or such opportunities. Washington City Paper (July 17, 2023)

11-year-old arrested in assault and robberies

A view of the D.C. Superior Court building in downtown Washington.

An unnamed 11-year-old was arrested in connection with an assault and two robberies in May. The three charges were dismissed. Months later, he was arrested on charges of armed robbery and carrying an unlicensed pistol. This comes at a time when D.C. authorities are struggling with violence against juveniles and fear young children are at higher risk for crimes. The Office of the Attorney General of the District of Columbia said in a general statement that though they prosecute for all serious crimes, they “also advocate for every young person who commits a crime to receive services and support they need to prevent them from reoffending.” The Washington Post (July 19, 2023)

restoring voting rights to felons

NAACP Virginia President Robert N. Barnette, Jr., speaks about a Freedom of Information Act related to the changes the Youngkin administration made to restoring rights to formerly incarcerated people near the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Va., on Tuesday, July 18, 2023. From left, Denise Harrington, Gaylene Kanoyton, Barnette and Karen Jones attended the press conference.

The Virginia NAACP demanded Governor Glenn Youngkin to publicly share criteria for restoring the voting rights of convicted felons who have saved their time. Currently, there are no clear guidelines on when an application should be granted or denied. President of Virginia’s NAACP Robert Barnette Jr. has described it as a “painfully slow opaque process” and as secretive and discriminatory against people of color. There have been two lawsuits filed over Youngkin’s process because of its lack of protocol and its confusing nature. The Hour (July 18, 2023)

resident pronounced dead at D.C. Jail

The D.C. Jail.

24-year-old Marktwan Hargraves was pronounced dead in a D.C. Jail. Staff at the jail found him unresponsive and administered CPR and naloxone. D.C. Fire and EMS also arrived on scene. Police and the Department of Correction are investigating the incident, but the cause of death is still unknown. Last year, eight other people died in DOC custody, from causes that include suicide, homicide, drug overdose and heart disease. The DOC is required to publicly share information about people who died at jail, which includes their name, gender, race, and ethnicity, and the circumstances surrounding their death. DCist (July 20, 2023)

restorative justice

Floyd Branch III, a restorative justice specialist for Montgomery County Public Schools, speaks about the practice at an elementary school PTA meeting.

Teacher Vicki Rotker has led a “community circle” in Kingsview Middle School in Germantown. The community circle or restorative circle works to diffuse tension and allow children to learn from their mistakes through conversation. Instead of focusing on punishment, the method encourages responsibility and resolution to move forward. The school is a part of the Montgomery School District, which is introducing restorative justice practices to all its schools. This practice has long been used in indigenous cultures as a part of alternative sentencing. School administration has received pushback from parents and staff, saying that harsher discipline can be necessary to hold students accountable. Many fear that it will lead to a “free for all” in public schools. The Hechinger Report (July 15, 2023)

child confinement in D.C.

In D.C.’s youth pretrial detention facilities, children are being confined in their cells beyond the legal limit. Detention facilities are severely understaffed and are relying on extended periods of confinement. At this time, staffing shortage is so severe that the agency is no longer monitoring kids at risk of suicide. There have been reports of children being confined to their cells for as long as 23 hours a day. Advocates and lawyers say that DYRS has been in violation of a number of policies, but DYRS has yet to respond to these allegations. City leaders, however, have pushed back against these reports, saying that DYRS is committed to “loving” children within their custody. DCist (July 21, 2023)

Pamela Smith as D.C.’s new chief of police

Pamela A. Smith takes the oath as the Metropolitan Police Department’s acting chief.

Mayor Muriel Bowser nominated former U.S. Park Police chief Pamela Smith to lead the city’s police force. Smith has over 25 years of experience in law enforcement and will be the second woman and first Black woman as the city’s chief of police. Smith plans to prioritize tackling gun violence, especially among youth. Growing up in foster care, Smith has always been driven to a career in public service and in guiding the youth to make a positive impact. She said in a statement, “I live in Ward 8, and I believe that every resident of the District of Columbia has a right to feel safe.” City officials are optimistic for the changes that Smith will enact in the coming years. WTOP News (July 17, 2023)

safer streets start in classroom

A new D.C. bill will encourage school districts to develop an age-appropriate curriculum to teach conflict resolution skills. This will be introduced in elementary school and continue through high school for D.C. youth. The possible financial impact has not been released or specified in the bill. However, legislation will provide school districts additional financial or nonfinancial resources if necessary. D.C. Ward 4 Council member Janeese Lewis George was among the seven members supporting the bill. She is confident that the curriculum will allow youth to process emotion and feelings in an appropriate manner that avoids violence. WTOP News (July 21, 2023)

From the Des

in other news

Jermaine Cannon will be the second inmate in Oklahoma to be sentenced to death row this year. He will be the ninth state execution since the state reinstated the practice back in 2021. Jurors unanimously chose the death penalty, after his trial. Attorney General Gentner Drummond said in a statement that he was pleased with the board’s decision to deny Cannon clemency. The Frontier (July 17, 2023)

The American Civil Liberty Union uncovered that Louisiana youth are in solitary cells with no air conditioning or windows. It is alleged that youth are only given few minutes outside of their cells and are being maced by officers. 15 of imprisoned youth are reported to be housed in former death row cells, 14 of which are Black. The Guardian (July 18, 2023)

There have been failures to carry out lethal injections in the last year in Alabama. Alan Eugene Miller detailed his execution in legal filings, reporting “sudden and severe pain,” after the prison spent two hours sticking needles all over his body. Despite its failure, the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) have reported “no deficiencies” in executions. Bolts Magazine (July 18, 2023)

The Council on Criminal Justice has reported crime trends in U.S. cities through June 2023. The report showed a snapshot of the crime rates and offenses for 37 cities. The authors concluded that crime patterns shifted in response to the pandemic and have recommended policies to combat a rise in crime. Council on Criminal Justice (July 2023)

community board

  • Memoir: Former Police Officer Serves Life 
  • Read: How Peer De-Escalation Works Within Prison as a Violence Harm Reduction
  • Read: Controversy Surrounding Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Policies and their Effectiveness
  • Read: Incarcerated Mother Separated from Children Under Minnesota’s Healthy Start law
  • Tweet: Analysis of Shootings in Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department 
  • Petition: No New Letcher Prison
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Zoe Kim attends Villanova University, where she is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and minors in Economics and Philosophy. Passionate in criminal justice, Zoe was drawn to The Des and independent journalism serving as a call to action. The Dez gives Zoe the opportunity to pursue her interest in media and criminal justice. As an intern, she is enthusiastic to see first-hand how journalism can spark change socially.