justice from the frontlines: Sept. 24, 2023

Overcoming addiction stigma

Expert in substance abuse and mental health Ocelia Pearsall fights against stigma and disregard for drug addiction, especially in the context of the opioid crisis. Despite campaigns to increase awareness and prove Narcan, an opioid antidote, some people are still insensitive and think addicts themselves are to blame for their situation. In order to assist addicts in recovery and reconstruct their lives, Pearsall emphasizes the significance of realizing that opioid exposure can occur accidentally. She also stresses the need for compassion and community support. The Washington Post (Sep. 19, 2023)

Controversial D.C. crime proposals

In response to an increase in crime in D.C., Brooke Pinto, D.C. Council member, has suggested seven pieces of legislation. She suggested permitting police to conduct random searches on people on pretrial release who have been charged with violent crimes, increasing crime prevention and monitoring in high-traffic locations, and enforcing stronger laws and punishments for those found guilty of crime involving guns. Judges have reacted negatively to these proposals, claiming that warrantless searches without probable cause may be against the law. With an eye on balancing worries about over-policing and racial inequities in the criminal justice system, Pinto’s efforts seek to combat rising crime rates. The Washington Post | DCist (Sep. 18-19, 2023)

“Do not call” list of Baltimore police officers

Ivan Bates, the Baltimore State Attorney, has published an updated list of the 60 police officers whose testimonies his office would not summon due to doubts about their trustworthiness. The list includes officers who have sustained findings of dishonesty linked to their testimony, those who are facing criminal charges or convictions that cast doubt on their capacity to testify truthfully, and those for whom Bates has exercised discretion due to actions that raise doubts about their honesty. This action strives to protect the integrity of law enforcement while recognizing the commitment of officers who carry out their responsibilities with honor. The Baltimore Banner (Sep. 18, 2023)

Maryland county looking to diversify police department

In order to fill staff gaps caused by growing crime and the fallout from the “Defund the Police” movement, Prince George’s County Police in Maryland plan to recruit individuals from Latin descent, looking closely in Puerto Rico. They are in search of bilingual Spanish speakers to assist the county’s expanding Spanish-speaking population. In order to attract a varied and educated pool of applicants, other police agencies in the area are also using a variety of recruitment techniques, such as hiring bonuses and incentives, and the majority are reporting an increase in recruitment numbers. Fox 5 Washington (Sep. 18, 2023)

Syed’s request for investigation denied

Adnan Syed, who was released from prison a year ago after serving over 20 years for the 1999 death of Hae Min Lee, has called on Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown to investigate alleged prosecutorial misconduct in his case. Syed maintains his innocence and presented examples of how he believes prosecutors wronged him before and during his trial. However, the Attorney General’s office declined to conduct the requested investigation, citing a lack of authority, and Syed’s case is pending before the Supreme Court of Maryland, with competing appeals from Syed and Lee’s family. The Baltimore Sun (Sep. 19, 2023)

D.C.’s NEAR Act is not living up to the hype

The Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results Amendment Act (NEAR Act), according to a report by D.C. Auditor Kathy Patterson, has enhanced data collecting and openness in the criminal justice system, but it hasn’t led to any substantial changes in the city’s public safety system. Despite evidence showing differences in stop-and-frisk procedures, these problems have not been resolved quickly. The NEAR Act has had an impact on specific aspects of police behavior, as seen by the fact that it has successfully decreased arrests for attacking police officers and ended pretextual stops. Washington City Paper (Sep. 14, 2023)

Challenges and solutions for Baltimore’s fire department

In addressing problems like high call numbers, a staffing shortage, and public health issues like the opioid crisis, the Baltimore City Fire Department is making some success. However, significant issues still exist, such as lengthy response times brought on by a lack of medics, a congested 911 call center, and an excess of non-emergency calls that overwhelm the system. The department is concentrating on population health strategies, such as diverting non-medical mental health calls, but members of the City Council expressed concerns about disjointed efforts to address mental health crises and called for improved hospital collaboration for frequent ambulance users with complex needs. The Baltimore Banner (Sep. 20, 2023)

in other news

Mississippi courts lacking in their 6-year obligations. In 2017, the Mississippi Supreme Court mandated that judges explain how they provide legal representation to poor criminal defendants, aiming to improve the state’s deficient public defense system. However, six years later, only one of the 23 circuit court districts in the state has complied, highlighting persistent issues in Mississippi’s indigent defense system, including lack of oversight and funding. Mississippi ranks last in per capita spending on public defense nationally and relies heavily on local officials, making reform efforts challenging. The Marshall Project (Sep. 18, 2023)

St. Louis jail commissioner’s turmoil. The jail commissioner in St. Louis, Jennifer Clemons-Abdullah, is dealing with a number of challenges, including nine deaths, riots, hostage situations, lawsuits alleging use-of-force issues, and the deletion of data pertaining to abuses in the jail. Although there is concern over Clemons-Abdullah’s future, Mayor Tishaura O. Jones recently expressed confidence in her despite requests for her resignation from supporters of the candidate, who ran on a platform of humane jail administration. Even if Clemons-Abdullah continues in charge, critics, including members of the jail monitoring board, are determined to look into the problems at the jail in the hopes that she would finally see the need for reform. St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Sep. 15, 2023)

Historic criminal justice reform in Illinois. Illinois is set to become the first U.S. state to completely eliminate the cash bail system with the Illinois Pretrial Fairness Act, effective from Monday. This groundbreaking move aims to combat economic and racial disparities in the criminal justice system by allowing defendants charged with most offenses to be released from jail while awaiting trial without the need for cash bail. While some law enforcement and public concerns have been raised about public safety, the law does not extend to those charged with violent crimes, sexual offenses, or gun charges. This decision in Illinois may inspire other states to consider similar reforms, potentially marking a significant shift in the approach to economic and racial inequality within the criminal justice system. New Pittsburgh Courier (Sep. 18, 2023)

Corizon Healhcare’s controversial restructuring. Corizon Health Inc., a private healthcare provider in prisons, faces lawsuits from over 100 individuals claiming poor medical care during incarceration. Corizon moved its debts to a new entity, Tehum Care Services, which filed for bankruptcy in a controversial move. This has left creditors uncertain about compensation, while Corizon operates under a new name, YesCare, potentially minimizing its liability. Creditors are now seeking to reverse the merger and make YesCare’s assets available to those owed millions. The Marshall Project (Sep. 19, 2023)

community board

  • Read | Reflection: Revealing Who is Made Invisible by the Carceral State
  • Read | Column: The Company Getting Rich Off My Prison’s Awful Food
  • Read | Reflection: Erasing Court Costs/Fines in Relation to Mass Incarceration
  • Watch | Conversation: Racial Disparities and Criminal Justice
  • Read | Column: What to Expect When Your Loved One Gets Out of Prison
  • Read | Study: National Public Defense Workload Study
  • Read | Opinion: Lockdown is Only Making Prisons’ Problems Worse
  • Buy | New Book: They Killed Freddie Gray: The Anatomy of a Police Brutality Cover-Up
  • Read | Editorial: D.C. Should Ban Solitary Confinement
  • Read | Opinion: Alabama Has a Horrible New Way of Killing People on Death Row
  • Read | Announcement: SBA Loan Program Offers to Those with Criminal Records
  • Read | Interview: This Homicide Victim’s Family Chose Reconciliation Over a Life Sentence

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Research and Reporting Intern