justice from the frontlines: Sept. 10, 2023

Redemption put to halt

Following an altercation between roommates Kenneil Cole and Keon Wallace in 2018, their families’ lives were tragically turned upside down. Cole, who was formerly seen as a community leader overcoming a difficult past, was charged with the murder of roommate Wallace. After a court battle, the case was dismissed in February 2023 on Cole’s claims of self-defense. The futures of both men are in shambles as Cole works to mend his reputation despite the fact that the charges against him were dropped, while Wallace’s family is still unsatisfied with the outcome of the case. The Washington Post (Sep. 3, 2023)

Baltimore jail medical legal battle

In order to defend the Baltimore jail healthcare system, the Maryland Office of the Attorney General has taken a more assertive legal approach. They have recruited the outside law firm Butler Snow LLP, which is run by William Lunsford, a former state prison defense lawyer. The ACLU’s National Prison Project objected to this decision, alleging that the state is undermining the medical monitor in charge of ensuring compliance with a 2016 settlement meant to improve medical conditions in Baltimore jails. This has led to questions about how seriously the state is taking the agreement’s requirements overall. The Baltimore Banner (Sep. 5 2023)

Debate over youth rights in Baltimore

Maryland’s Child Interrogation Project Act, which requires that minor defendants have an attorney explain their Miranda rights before interrogation, is being scrutinized because Baltimore Police officers routinely broke it. The statute is intended to protect children from possible coercion and false confessions, but prosecutors claim it obstructs criminal investigations, sparking a heated dispute among local legal professionals and politicians. The Baltimore Sun (Sep. 6, 2023)

D.C. curfew backlash

There has been a 39% increase in violent crime in D.C., which has led to the adoption of a juvenile curfew in some areas. The action attempts to reduce youth involvement in high-profile violent incidents, but opinions on its efficacy are divided. There are worries about how it may affect at-risk youth. Local groups like TRAPP Stars push for more thorough strategies to shield the city’s youngsters from the ongoing violence, including community programming and enhanced safety measures. CBC News (Sep. 2, 2023)

D.C. possible solitary confinement ban

A campaign to outlaw the use of solitary confinement in the D.C. Jail and other local Department of Corrections institutions has been reintroduced by D.C. Councilmember Brianne Nadeau. The ERASE (Eliminating Restrictive and Segregated Enclosures) Solitary Confinement Act of 2023 would outlaw all types of isolation, with the exception of short-term measures to prevent suicide or for medical reasons. In order to alleviate the negative impacts of this practice, the legislation also requires increased resident out-of-cell time, mental health assistance during extended incarceration and transparency in reporting solitary confinement use. DCist (Sep. 6, 2023)

Punishment beyond release

According to a recent Maryland appellate court decision, people who have not successfully finished their probation cannot apply for expungement, leaving many people like Carlos Battle, a reformed former offender, in an uncertain position. The subject of when one’s punishment genuinely ends and whether they ought to be judged by their past is raised by supporters of the ruling, who claim that it goes against the spirit of rehabilitation and prevents people from moving on with their lives after serving their terms. The Baltimore Banner (Sep. 6, 2023)

Crime surge in D.C.

In a recent wave of violence, there have been seven homicides in Washington, D.C., all of which were caused by gunshot wounds. The most recent occurrence took place in the Washington Highlands area, increasing the year’s overall number of homicides by 29% when compared to the same time last year. To combat the rise in violence, local authorities have put in place a number of measures, such as tighter pretrial detention and curfew enforcement. But these methods have not slowed any of the violence or crime. The Washington Post (Sep. 4, 2023)

in other news

Other states can learn from Cali. The ongoing discussion about solitary confinement in California is an extension of a larger national issue. Even though there have been previous attempts to restrict its usage, recent events, including California Governor Gavin Newsom’s veto of a bill that met international standards, demonstrate the difficulties in changing this practice. The national discussion over the effects of solitary confinement on convicts’ mental health and its potential for abuse continues to boil as other states struggle with related challenges. The Marshall Project (Sep. 2, 2023)

Federal prison guards get away with rape. In a disturbing tale of institutional failure and abuse, federal prison guards at FCC Coleman in Florida admitted to repeatedly raping incarcerated women, yet escaped prosecution due to a little-known Supreme Court precedent. Despite the Senate’s investigation and damning evidence, a culture of corruption within the prison system shielded these guards. The women’s fight for justice continues, highlighting the urgent need for prison reform and accountability within the system. Reason (Sep. 2023)

Small American towns suffer police scarcity. Small towns across America are experiencing a scarcity of police officers, which has been made worse by the pandemic’s negative effects on morale and the increased public scrutiny of law enforcement in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. As a result, several communities dissolved their police forces and now depend on the county sheriff or adjacent communities for law enforcement assistance. Communities around the country are facing a variety of difficulties as a result of the departure of experienced officers and the dearth of new recruits willing to go through the necessary training, especially those unable to compete with the pay and incentives provided by larger towns. AP News (Sep. 5, 2023)

Healthcare restrictions in WV. West Virginia’s new law, Senate Bill 1009, restricts state funds for incarcerated individuals’ healthcare, raising concerns about inadequate medical care in prisons and potential legal challenges. Critics fear the law may limit crucial services like gender-affirming care and contraception while leaving “medically necessary” open to interpretation by state officials rather than healthcare professionals. Bolts (Sep. 6, 2023)

community board

  • Watch: Documentary | Two Strikes – examines the impact of a little-known “two-strikes” law.
  • Read: Commentary | Curbing violent crime in Baltimore requires all of us to act
  • Watch: Survey | DC is America’s least desirable place to live
  • Read: New Book Feedback | The Chronicle’s Prison Heat Series
  • Read: New Book Feedback | Correction: Parole, Prison, and the Possibility of Change
+ posts

Research and Reporting Intern