justice from the frontlines: Nov. 12, 2023

$3M victory vanishes in corporate bankruptcy

After winning a $3 million jury award against Corizon Health for mishandling his fractured wrist during incarceration, David Hall faces uncertainty as the company declares bankruptcy, part of the controversial “Texas Two-Step.” Corizon’s bankruptcy has broader implications for Maryland, where it holds a major medical provider contract. Despite his victory, Hall, unable to afford additional surgeries, anticipates minimal compensation from the bankruptcy proceedings. The Baltimore Banner (Nov. 7, 2023)

Youth unheard in D.C. detention center

Council member Trayon White claims that living conditions at a juvenile detention institution in Northeast D.C. are so bad that inmates have resorted to destroying buildings to draw attention to the problem. The facility deals with issues including violence, a lack of staff, and poor education, which irritates residents who feel ignored by the staff. White stressed the importance of talking about staffing shortages and paying attention to young people’s worries. WTOP News (Nov. 6, 2023)

Police union challenges transparency

A report that revealed that fired officers were rehired following arbitration and received hundreds of thousands in back pay has the D.C. Police Union suing D.C. Auditor Kathy Patterson and her staff. The union claims the report violates laws protecting police personnel files and damages officers’ reputations. The case is a reflection of the union’s continued attempts to restrict police action openness, however Patterson claims the complaint is baseless and calls attention to possible threats to police accountability. Washington Citypaper (Nov. 7, 2023)

Maryland’s youth boredom prompts crime

NPR’s Michel Martin interviews incarcerated teens, revealing that boredom, lack of basic necessities, and misguided influences contributed to their criminal activities. Despite an overall decline in youth violence over the past decade, recent spikes have prompted initiatives in Maryland, such as violence interrupters and life coaches, to address the issue and reduce incarceration rates. The impact of the pandemic on disrupted schooling and increased frustration is also highlighted as a factor in the rise of youth violence. Texas Public Radio (Nov. 6, 2023)

Maryland tackles prison disparities

Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown, in partnership with the public defender’s office, hosted a forum at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum to address the disproportionate incarceration of Black individuals in the state. The initiative, part of the Maryland Equitable Justice Collaborative, focuses on community input, with suggestions including increased investment in youth programs. Committee meetings and legislative recommendations are planned for the coming months, aiming for a final report in January 2025. CBS Baltimore (Nov. 6, 2023)

Smith breaks barriers among crime challenges

Pamela A. Smith becomes the first Black woman confirmed as D.C.’s police chief, inheriting the role amid a surge in violent crime. The challenges include managing a understaffed force, addressing community fears, and navigating a political landscape marked by blame for rising crime. Despite concerns, Smith is praised for her leadership, with a focus on collaboration to tackle the city’s crime crisis. The Washington Post (Nov. 7, 2023)

Maryland revamps autopsy procedures

Maryland officials approved a landmark settlement reforming autopsy procedures for deaths in police custody, including a new policy ensuring independent and objective investigations. The agreement, prompted by the 2018 death of Anton Black, provides $100,000 to the family and $135,000 for attorneys’ fees, emphasizing transparency and preventing biased narratives in autopsy reports. The Baltimore Banner (Nov. 8, 2023)

Protecting youth, reform first

Stakeholders in juvenile justice are urging state lawmakers to uphold reforms enacted a year ago, despite concerns about rising youth gun violence and auto thefts. Supporters emphasize the importance of maintaining the Juvenile Justice Reform Act, providing services to vulnerable youth, and caution against reverting to failed policies. The committee is reviewing the law, but advocates stress the need for patience and continued research-driven approaches. The Baltimore Banner (Nov. 8, 2023)

Prison heat crisis resolved

A Maryland state prison in Jessup faced a five-day heat and hot water outage in October due to boiler issues identified during an inspection. Emergency temporary boilers were installed by October 6 to address health and safety concerns for inmates. The main boilers are expected to be repaired by the year-end, and an emergency contract for temporary boilers was awarded to M&M Welding and Fabricators for $154,500 by the Maryland Board of Public Works. The Baltimore Sun (Nov. 8, 2023)

Mosby guilty in false pandemic hardship

Former Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby was found guilty of perjury for falsely claiming pandemic-related financial hardship to withdraw $90,000 for Florida vacation homes. The defense argued business plans were affected, while prosecutors asserted she lacked genuine hardship. Mosby faces a potential maximum of five years in prison for each charge. The Baltimore Banner (Nov. 9, 2023)

in other news

DNA breakthrough after decades of doubt. Samuel Herring, a 67-year-old man serving a life sentence for a 1984 kidnapping and rape conviction, claims innocence and has sought help from the Ohio Innocence Project. Herring’s case highlights issues of racial disparity in wrongful convictions, including misleading forensic evidence and cross-racial eyewitness identification. Recent DNA testing, prompted by the Ohio Innocence Project, may provide new evidence to support Herring’s innocence after nearly four decades behind bars. The Marshall Project (Nov. 9, 2023)

Decay exposed behind bars. Inspectors at a federal women’s prison in Tallahassee, Florida, discovered severe issues such as moldy food, rodent-infested storage, and widespread disrepair. This highlights broader problems within the Bureau of Prisons, overseeing 120 facilities with staffing shortages and a $2 billion budget shortfall for necessary repairs. The inspections aim to draw attention to the urgent need for increased funding and support from lawmakers. The New York Times (Nov. 8, 2023)

High-security release challenges. Formerly incarcerated at Massachusetts’ Souza-Baranowski maximum-security prison, Jamaul Vital faces challenges reintegrating after direct release, citing limited access to programs. Concerns about high recidivism rates and racial disparities in prison classifications underscore the need for a more supportive transition process for those leaving high-security facilities. GBH (Nov. 7, 2023)

community board

  • Read | Commentary: Prison Healthcare Means Not Knowing What’s Slowly Destroying My Body
  • Read | Opinion: How Can So Many D.C. Youths Die While Under Court Supervision?
  • Read | New Podcast Synopsis: Inside Voices: Three D.C. Men Offer Solutions from the Yard
  • Watch | Story: Running the NYC Marathon to change America’s prison system
  • Read | Commentary: The Prison Soul Band That Opened for Stevie Wonder
  • Read | Report: Is Shoplifting Up or Down?
  • Read | Feature: The Mercy Workers
  • Attend | Rally: End Solitary Confinement in DC Jails: Rally and Advocacy Day
  • Attend | Workshop: Virtual Write Night: November 15
  • Read | Commentary: The need for “Local” Representation in DC’s Jail

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Research and Reporting Intern