justice from the frontlines: Oct. 8, 2023

Maryland’s legal strategy in prison healthcare suit raises eyebrows

Maryland has recently hired the services of Butler Snow LLP, a law firm recognized for its defense of prison systems in the Deep South, to resolve a long-standing class action complaint concerning healthcare and mental health treatment in Baltimore jails. Transparency issues have been raised by this action, particularly in light of the contract’s confidential financial conditions. According to some, the state may be attempting to avoid adhering to a 2016 settlement deal meant to enhance healthcare for inmates. Although the firm’s participation is anticipated to result in significant expenditures, the reasons behind their selection are still unknown. The Baltimore Banner (Oct. 2, 2023)

Legal revolution implemented in Maryland

Maryland implemented new laws on October 1, 2023, including stricter gun control, removing the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse lawsuits, expanding hate crime laws, mandating fentanyl testing in hospitals, and repealing the exemption for prosecuting spousal rape. Washington, D.C. began enforcing a law preventing cashless businesses, and Maryland’s attorney general gained the authority to prosecute police officers in cases of officer-involved deaths. NBC Washington (Oct. 1, 2023)

SCOTUS term begins with election fallout and prison drug sentences

The Supreme Court’s new term officially began when John Eastman’s appeal was denied because of his role in campaigns to overturn the 2020 election. This term, the Court will handle a number of problems, including social media rules and regulatory agency restrictions, as well as a case involving drug dealer prison sentences. Justice Clarence Thomas withdrew from the Eastman case without justification, and discussions about creating a code of conduct for justices are still ongoing. AP News (Oct. 2, 2023)

Dogfighting scandal rocks the Pentagon

Frederick Douglass Moorefield Jr., a communications officer for the Department of Defense, has been accused of leading a dogfighting ring and working with Mario Damon Flythe, another defendant, to train dogs for unlawful dogfighting and communicate about gambling via encrypted messaging applications. If found guilty, Moorefield and Flythe may receive a term as long as five years in federal prison. During searches of their Maryland properties, police confiscated dogs and other evidence. The New York Times (Oct. 3, 2023)

Maryland’s past juvenile justice horrors

Fifty individuals have filed lawsuits alleging sexual abuse during their time in Maryland’s juvenile justice system, implicating the state government for widespread abuse facilitated by negligence. These cases stem from the Maryland Child Victims Act, which removed civil time limitations for child sexual assault victims, allowing them to seek justice against perpetrators and institutions with potential damages. The victims aim to raise awareness and support others who have suffered similarly. The Washington Post (Oct. 2, 2023)

Carjacking crisis in D.C. surges

Carjackings in the D.C. area have surged by 106% in 2023, with incidents occurring across all neighborhoods and hours, causing concern among authorities. The recent carjacking of Texas Congressman Henry Cuellar, who was robbed at gunpoint near the U.S. Capitol, highlights the growing issue, prompting calls for increased efforts to combat crime, particularly involving juveniles, as D.C. experiences a rise in violent offenses and a debate over criminal sentencing laws. The Washington Post (Oct. 3, 2023)

“Serial” podcast’s Adnan Syed’s fate at stake

Maryland’s highest court is deliberating whether the rights of a murder victim’s family were violated when Adnan Syed’s murder conviction, made famous by the “Serial” podcast, was vacated. The court is also considering the extent to which crime victims have a right to participate in hearings where a conviction could be vacated, and the ruling could determine Syed’s fate, potentially sending him back to prison for life. AP News (Oct. 5, 2023)


Sister of LaPere killing suspect Jason Dean Billingsley speaks out in podcast

D.C.’s Embattled Crime Lab Could Regain Accreditation As Early As January

Director Of D.C.’s Troubled 911 Agency Defends Call Center Amid Staffing Crisis, Deadly Errors

Latest In A Flurry Of Council Crime Bills Focuses On 911 Response, Crime Lab Staffing, And Violence Interruption

Violent Crime Is Surging in D.C. This Year: ‘We Just Stood There and Screamed’

in other news

Unveiling youth gun culture in NY. The research “Two Battlefields” by the Center for Justice Innovation explains why young Black males in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights carry firearms, attributing it to poverty, apprehension of violence, and mistrust of police enforcement. In order to address the underlying causes of gun violence in under-resourced urban neighborhoods, the research emphasizes the need for comprehensive community-based solutions, including focusing on high-risk individuals within street networks and offering alternatives like job training and education. New York Amsterdam News (Sep. 28, 2023)

Texas’ prisons’ deadly heat. The extreme heat conditions inside Texas prisons is dramatically rising, where two-thirds of facilities lack air conditioning in living spaces, leading to temperatures as high as 130 fahrenheit. It highlights the health risks prisoners face due to prolonged exposure to extreme heat, with at least nine reported deaths potentially linked to heat-related issues. Despite proposed legislation and available funds, the state has not fully addressed the issue, and the article calls for greater awareness and action to prevent inhumane conditions and potential harm to inmates. The Guardian (Oct. 1, 2023)

Rethinking policing strategies in NJ. Geolitica’s crime forecasts for the Plainfield Police Department in New Jersey rarely matched reported crimes, with a success rate of less than 5%, according to an examination by The Markup. As Geolitica terminates operations and the focus switches to more comprehensive data management systems in policing, this raises questions about the precision and efficacy of crime prediction software. Instead of just relying on predictive models, critics advise tackling the underlying causes of crime. The Markup (Oct. 2, 2023)

Montana’s mentally ill trapped in prisons. In Montana, inmates with severe mental illness are often held in jail for extended periods as they await trial because there is a shortage of mental health treatment facilities. The state’s only psychiatric hospital is overwhelmed, with a growing waitlist, leading to prolonged stays in jail for individuals who require treatment. Despite efforts to address the issue, the situation remains challenging, with limited alternatives for these inmates. NPR (Oct. 1, 2023)

Baton Rouge Police misconduct uncovered. Four Baton Rouge police officers, including Deputy Chief Troy Lawrence Sr., face charges for allegedly violently strip-searching a detainee in 2020, threatening him with tasers, and attempting to cover it up by disposing of body camera footage. These charges come amid recent accusations of detainee mistreatment, including strip-searches and beatings in an unmarked warehouse, leading to an FBI investigation into the Baton Rouge Police Department. The Washington Post (Oct. 2, 2023)

community board

  • Read | Article: These Prisoners Are Training AI
  • Read | Opinion: Serial Offenders Drive the Spike in Gun Violence in D.C.
  • Read | Brief: The President’s Proclamation on National Youth Justice Action Month, 2023
  • Read | Article: Some Black Men Critical of D.C. Council Response to Violent Crime
  • Read | Interest Story: What It’s Like to Be a Journalist in Prison
  • Read |‘Peace For DC’ Among Social Justice Groups to Receive NFL Grants. The organization also received $2M over three years from the Department of Justice 
  • Read | Study: Where Violent Crime Has Spiked in D.C.
  • Read | Article: A Death Row Opera Goes to Sing Sing, With Inmates Onstage
  • Read | Editorial: Law Would Help New York by Helping the Wrongfully Convicted

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Research and Reporting Intern