justice from the frontlines: Sept. 17, 2023

Barbershop tour tackles mass incarceration

In Maryland, Anthony Brown, the attorney general, and Natasha Dartigue, the public defender, took part in a historic barbershop tour in Baltimore to discuss issues concerning mass incarceration. They spoke with the community, discussed workable alternatives, and acknowledged the need for investments in community assistance and education to lower crime and taxpayer expenses. This community-wide initiative was viewed as a step in the right direction toward encouraging change and understanding. CBS Baltimore (Sep. 9, 2023)

D.C.’s safety dilemma

Residents of D.C., who have seen an increase in violent crime over the past year, are now dealing with more fears about their safety. Even while the city’s reputation for crime has improved since the 1990s, recent increases in homicides, shootings and carjackings have made people feel uneasy, even in neighborhoods not typically known for high crime rates. Residents are forced to deal with a new reality where safety is becoming an increasing concern in different communities, despite efforts by local leaders and the police to address the problem. The Washington Post (Sep. 11, 2023)

License battle unveils discriminatory bias

The Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) and the restaurant’s neighbors presented Chef James Robinson, owner of KitchenCray in H Street, D.C., with several obstacles that ultimately forced him to close his restaurant in August. Robinson argues that despite the ANC’s assurances to the contrary, its actions were racially discriminatory and disproportionately targeted Black-owned businesses like his. DCist (Sep. 11, 2023)

Rethinking Maryland’s youth justice

In the face of a rise in youth-related offenses, Maryland officials are at a crossroads and debating the need for improvements in the juvenile justice system. Although requests for reform have been sparked by a few high-profile events, the state has steadily moved toward a more rehabilitative strategy. The course of these reforms is still changing due to a new governor, a new secretary of juvenile services and continuous discussions among politicians. The Baltimore Banner (Sep. 12, 2023)

Ward 8 community crime walk

D.C. residents joined police in a call for action for public safety during a crime walk in Ward 8, an area experiencing a sharp rise in murders and violent crime. Acting MPD Chief Pamela Smith mandated these walks in all police districts to build community relationships. Ward 8 has seen 74 homicides, nearly double other wards, and violent crime is up 30%, prompting efforts to increase police-community interactions and address concerns about officers’ accessibility. ABC 7 News (Sep. 12, 2023)

Peltier rally ending in mass arrests

In Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, 35 people were arrested and cited during a planned demonstration near the White House calling for the release of Leonard Peltier from federal prison. The event, organized near Lafayette Square, saw hundreds of supporters advocating for Peltier’s release on his 79th birthday. Peltier, who has been incarcerated for nearly 50 years, was convicted of the murder of two FBI officers in 1975. The rally aimed to increase awareness and pressure President Biden for Executive Clemency. Native News Online (Sep. 12, 2023)

Change needed in the prison system

The Federal Bureau of Prisons’ director, Colette Peters, spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee in D.C. about her initiatives to improve the suffering prison system. She stressed the value of responsibility and dedication in achieving agency reform. Concerns regarding transgender inmates, sexual assaults, solitary confinement, prenatal care for prisoners, drug control and drone-related difficulties in federal prisons were among the themes highlighted during the session. Iowa Capital Dispatch (Sep. 13, 2023)

in other news

Body cams tell all. A Philadelphia police officer, Mark Dial, has been charged with first-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and other offenses after fatally shooting 27-year-old Eddie Irizarry. His death was initially described as a result of a car chase and knife confrontation. However, body camera footage revealed a different account, showing Irizarry still inside his car when shot. The incident ignited community anger and protests, with Dial released on $500,000 bail. The case is the fourth since 2018 where Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner has charged a police officer involved in an on-duty shooting. The New York Times(Sep. 8, 2023)

Marsy’s Law used in disgrace. Ta’Kiya Young, a 21-year-old pregnant Black woman, lost her life in late August when an Ohio police officer shot through the window of her car after she resisted commands during a shoplifting accusation. Surprisingly, due to the treatment of the police officers engaged in the incident as victims under Marsy’s Law, a law designed to protect crime victims, neither Young nor her unborn child are currently regarded as victims of a crime. Advocates for civil liberties claim that this approach, which is becoming more prevalent in several states, including Ohio, inhibits transparency and accountability in situations of police use of force. The Marshall Project (Sep. 9, 2023)

Unlawful Memphis police tactics. When Memphis police stopped Maurice Vaughn in 2018 when he was parked in his brother-in-law’s driveway, his life took a catastrophic turn. He was found to be driving on a suspended license. Vaughn spent nearly a year in jail, lost his job, and had to move out of his house because of subsequent events, including an unlawful search that ended in a felony charge of gun possession. This case shows concerns about aggressive enforcement techniques and has attracted attention from the U.S. Department of Justice amid continuing investigations into police conduct. The Marshall Project (Sep. 12, 2023)

Praised Boston police forces. In the midst of ongoing concerns about disruptive teen mobs in Boston, the city’s police response has drawn praise. Recent incidents, including downtown melees, were quelled using de-escalation tactics instead of forceful measures, marking a significant shift from previous confrontations with protesters. This approach, emphasizing professionalism and restraint, serves as a potential model for police reform efforts nationwide, aiming to rebuild trust within communities and maintain consistency in law enforcement practices. Boston Globe (Sep. 8, 2023)

Parents charged in children’s overdoses. Parents Madison Bernard and Evan Frostick are facing murder charges after their toddler overdosed on fentanyl in California. While California prosecutors use drunk driving statutes to hold parents responsible for their children’s fentanyl-related fatalities, several states have passed “drug-induced homicide” legislation to pursue drug dealers. The argument is falls on whether or not these parents, who are motivated by addiction, should be viewed as criminals or as needing assistance and rehabilitation. AP News (Sep. 8, 2023)

Puppy held for ransom. After an incident in which Irvine police said they saved a pit bull puppy from a fentanyl overdose, the owner, Caleb Gibson, has been cleared to regain custody of his dog. However, he now faces a daunting bill of over $2,000 for the animal’s care, leading him to describe the situation as his puppy being “held for ransom.” Despite preliminary tests showing no drugs in the puppy’s system, the case remains under investigation, and Gibson is left with the challenge of covering the unexpected costs while striving to rebuild his life. Los Angeles Times (Sep. 14, 2023)

community board

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  • Listen | New Book Discussion | The Fear of too Much Justice
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Research and Reporting Intern