justice from the frontlines: Aug. 20, 2023

Judge holds finding that insurance company discriminated

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against the Maryland Insurance Administration brought by Erie Insurance that claimed discriminatory treatment of Black brokers in Baltimore. Following the administration’s discovery of unfair practices such as criminal background checks and refusal to insure those with “city-sounding names”, the court’s ruling means that Erie Insurance will handle the claims through a state administrative procedure. The Baltimore Banner (Aug. 15, 2023)

Cops spending more time in cars

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

According to a recent report made as part of its legally required consent decree, the Baltimore Police Department continues to struggle to gain the trust of locals through community policing initiatives. Despite training efforts, the department remains hindered by officers spending more time on calls and in cars than they do in neighborhoods. The Baltimore Banner (Aug. 15, 2023)

Postponed prosecution

After prosecutors requested a delay because an assistant state’s attorney was ill, allegations of political scheming led to the dismissal and subsequent reindictment of Draquan Smith’s murder trial in Baltimore. The case highlights issues with staffing shortages and the difficulties in ensuring consistency in prosecutions. The Baltimore Banner (Aug. 15, 2023)

11-year-old arrested in assault and robberies

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

The release of thorough stop-and-search data by the Baltimore Police Department, as required by a court consent decree, has been significantly delayed despite promises of reform which worries experts and advocates. The lack of progress has led to concerns about transparency and leadership, which has a negative impact on how well the decree’s goals are being achieved and how well policy changes are being evaluated. The Baltimore Banner (Aug. 14, 2023)

Advancing justice

The Maryland Office of the State Fire Marshal is facing allegations of engaging in racial discrimination, and a court has decided that the action can proceed. The lawsuit argues that there is a racist culture in the department and makes charges of harassment, verbal abuse, and bullying. The judge found sufficient evidence to support some of the claims. WTOP News (Aug. 17, 2023) 

D.C. starts curfew for youth

The D.C. Jail.

Along with city officials and acting chief Pamela Smith, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser unveiled updates on the city’s crime strategy. These included a pilot program to address the shortage of police officers by providing referral bonuses, increased CCTV surveillance, and a Juvenile Curfew Enforcement program in particular areas. The revelation comes as the city experiences an increase in crime rates and fear of youth safety. ABC 7 News | DCist (Aug. 17, 2023)

Violence on firefighters

Myisha Richards, a firefighter in D.C., comes out about the brutal assault she experienced while attending to a call, bringing attention to the rise in violence experienced by EMTs and firefighters. Attacks and their effects on mental health spur initiatives to offer assistance, de-escalation training, and greater readiness for potentially hazardous circumstances. NBC 4 Washington (Aug. 16, 2023)

in other news

The Marion County Record newspaper in Kansas was raided by local police, infuriating those that support press freedom and journalism. The raid, which was the result of an argument between the newspaper and an owner of a nearby restaurant, is viewed as a serious violation of press freedom rights. Advocates raise concerns about the impact on journalism and demand law enforcement be transparent and accountable. KCUR 89.3 | NPR (Aug. 14, 2023)

The increasing rate of homicides and gun violence against Black women in Iowa brings light to underlying problems and inequality. Despite being a small, largely rural state, Iowa experienced a startling rise in the number of Black women killed in 2020; the issue was made worse by socioeconomic inequalities, easy access to firearms, and underinvestment in Black communities. Activists and advocates for this cause are working to bring about change by promoting violence prevention initiatives. The Guardian (Aug. 15, 2023)

Families of victims and death row inmates are working together in Louisiana to support individuals who are on death row. In accordance with the state’s “pro-life” principles, they are pleading with the state to reduce death sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Gov. John Bel Edwards supports the clemency request and the overall effort illustrates the range of feelings surrounding the debate on the death penalty. Nola.com (Aug. 15, 2023)

Alarming proof that Florida prison officials and medical personnel let an incarcerated person’s prostate cancer go untreated, leading to eventual paralysis, a terminal condition, and extensive bed sores, has been revealed as a result of a civil rights issue. Elmer Williams, a former incarcerated individual, claims that the refusal of medical care was a punishment, casting light on the overall problem of medical neglect in the prison system. Reason (Aug. 15, 2023)

community board

  • Read: The Jewish Case for Prison Reform (Tablet)
  • Apply: Racial Justice and Youth Defense Fellowship | Georgetown Juvenile Justice Initiative
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Research and Reporting Intern