Bowser introduces safety legislation. Congress Blocks D.C. Police Reform Bill. Stricter Gun Laws in MD. Black Victims and Families Disproportionately Denied Support.

justice from the frontlines:

May 22, 2023

Tougher Sentences and Limited Early Release

Mayor Muriel Bowser has proposed new legislation that includes measures to streamline the detention process for those accused of crimes, impose stricter penalties for gun possession, and make it more difficult for individuals convicted of serious crimes to secure early release from prison. The DCist (May 15, 2023)

Congress Blocks D.C. Police Reform Bill

The U.S. senate has voted after the congressional review period to repeal a D.C. police reform bill, joining the House in blocking the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Amendment Act. The bill, which includes provisions such as banning chokeholds and creating a public database of police misconduct, was already law in D.C. via temporary legislation. The DCist (May 16, 2023) 

Mom charged in court room outburst

Karen Hylton, the mother of Karon Hylton-Brown, who died in a police chase, has been charged with assaulting security personnel during a courtroom outburst following the conviction of two D.C. police officers involved in the incident. Hylton is yet to enter a plea, and her whereabouts are currently unknown. A warrant for her arrest will be issued if she fails to appear in court by May 30. The Washington Post (May 17, 2023)

Shipley Hill Police Shooting

Body-worn camera footage shows an officer shooting and injuring 17-year-old Mekhi Franklin from behind as he ran away with a gun. Detective Cedric Elleby fired four shots during the pursuit. Franklin’s mother confirmed his name and stated that he is in stable condition after undergoing surgery. The Baltimore Banner (May 16, 2023)

Aim for Change: Stricter Gun Laws

Maryland’s gun laws will become stricter as Governor Wes Moore signs measures limiting concealed carry permits and usage. The bills, a response to a Supreme Court ruling, prohibit carrying concealed handguns in certain locations, raise the age requirement, increase penalties, and expand training requirements. The Baltimore Banner (May 16, 2023)

Baltimore Students Speak Out

High schoolers affected by gun violence are expressing feelings of hopelessness and frustration, calling for more attention and understanding from city officials. Many students have experienced traumatic events related to gun violence, leading to anxiety and post-traumatic stress. They want the city to take stronger action to prevent firearms from reaching the wrong hands and provide more resources and opportunities for youth, including mentorship programs and critical skill training. The Baltimore Banner (May 19, 2023)

Privacy vs. Security

The Virginia Criminal Justice Services Board approved $1.6 million in grants for the purchase of license plate readers, despite concerns about privacy. The grants will enable 32 localities to acquire 212 devices as part of a broader funding allocation for law enforcement equipment and training. Virginia Mercury (May 15, 2023)

Fairfax County Police Reform

In the past 15 months, the Fairfax County Police Department in Virginia has experienced an increase in officer-involved shootings, eight total, prompting community leaders and lawmakers to examine department policies. A work group commissioned by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has released its recommendations, which include establishing more community oversight and granting independent investigating authority to a civilian review panel. The recommendations will be reviewed by Police Chief Kevin Davis and the board of supervisors. WTOP News (May 18, 2023)

Understaffed and Overlooked

West Virginia corrections officials highlighted severe staffing shortages in their facilities during a state legislative committee meeting. The Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation Executive Officer Brad Douglas revealed that eight facilities had officer vacancy rates exceeding 40%, emphasizing the pressing staffing issues. However, little attention was given to overcrowded jails and prisons. Scrutiny of West Virginia’s correctional system has intensified due to increasing inmate deaths, with calls for an independent civil rights investigation. Charleston Gazette-Mail (May 20, 2023)

in other news

Police Accountability and Child Welfare

A video showing an NYPD officer pushing a father holding a toddler has sparked concerns about police use of force in the presence of children and the role of the city’s child welfare agency in custody cases involving arrests. Gothamist (May 15, 2023) 


Rachael S. Rollins, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, announced her resignation ahead of the release of a Justice Department inquiry into her conduct, including her appearance at a Democratic fundraiser, which later expanded to include her use of a personal cellphone for official business. The New York Times (May 16, 2023)

Black Victims and Families Disproportionately Denied Support

Black victims and their families are disproportionately denied compensation by state programs for crime victims. Investigation that found high denial rates in 19 out of 23 states examined, revealing systemic bias in the criminal justice system’s response to racial disparities. Associated Press News (May 17, 2023)

community board

D.C. Homicides Surge to a Decade-High. Change in D.C. Pretrial Detention Laws. Virginia Extends Youth Detention Stay. W. VA Closes Legal Gap on Stalking Crimes

justice from the frontlines: May 15, 2023

D.C homicides surge to a decade-high

Homicides in the District of Columbia have risen by 9% compared to last year, reaching the highest level in the past decade, with 76 deaths so far. The city has implemented a multi-pronged approach to tackle the issue. However, recent shifts in focus towards the role of police and the courts have ignited debates on effective solutions. The DCist (May 10, 2023)

Change in D.C. pretrial detention laws

MPD police in DC.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser plans to introduce legislation detaining more people charged with violent crimes pending trial to address concerns about repeat offenders fueling crime spikes. The proposal, announced during a Public Safety Summit, aims to revise existing laws allowing pretrial release. The DCist (May 10, 2023)

Children behind bars

Maryland has one of the highest rates in the country of prisoners sentenced as children, with a significant racial disparity, according to a report by Human Rights for Kids. Of the 1,132 prisoners in Maryland who were incarcerated as children, 90% are people of color, with 81.3% being Black. The Baltimore Banner (May 10, 2023)

‘Characteristics of an Armed Person’

Following a Baltimore Police shooting that critically injured a 17-year-old, concerns have been raised about the police phrase used to justify the initial interaction. The officer approached the teen, believing he ‘displayed characteristics of an armed person’. However, community members argue that such phrases are used to justify stops based on hunches and contribute to harassment. The Baltimore Sun (May 12, 2023) 

Lengthening lockdown

The Board of Juvenile Justice in Virginia quietly approved new guidelines that extend the length of stay for youth in the state’s juvenile correctional center. The guidelines went into effect on March 1st. Critics argue that the extended stays do not contribute to public safety and can increase recidivism. The Richmond Times-Dispatch (May 7, 2023) 

$2.4 Million for active shooter response training

Virginia’s ALERRT program, which trains first responders and civilians to respond during active shooter emergencies, has received $2.4 million in funding. The program provides evidence-based training to law enforcement agencies and civilians statewide. WUSA 9 (May 11, 2023) 

W. VA closes legal gap on stalking crimes

West Virginia has closed a stalking loophole with the signing of Senate Bill 132 into law. The bill, which went into effect on May 2, officially recognizes stalking as a crime in the state. WBOY (May 8, 2023)

Study group for developmental patients

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) is addressing concerns regarding the placement of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) in state-run mental hospitals. Senate Bill 232 was passed to create a study group focused on recommendations for IDD patient diversion from prisons, jails, and court-ordered placements. The Parkersburg News and Sentinel (May 8, 2023)

in other news

Incarcerated individuals across the United States face higher prices for staple items such as peanut butter, soap, coffee, and toothpaste, while prison suppliers and departments of corrections profit from unregulated markups on items. The Marshall Project (May 2, 2023)

The White House has released a strategic plan to support rehabilitation and reentry of incarcerated individuals, while President Biden commuted sentences for 31 nonviolent drug offenders. ABA Journal (May 5, 2023) 

The Supreme Court’s ban on split-jury verdicts in serious crimes has resulted in divergent approaches, with Oregon reevaluating cases while Louisiana prosecutors resist, leaving prisoners affected by an unequal system and exacerbating racial disparities. NPR (May 14, 2023) 

community board

DC crime lab’s independence at risk. DMV Auto theft surges. VA Red Flag Law Funding in Limbo.

justice from the frontlines: May 8, 2023

DC crime lab’s independence at risk

Mayor Bowser proposed moving the Washington D.C. crime lab, which has faced a series of issues, from the Department of Forensic Sciences to the Metropolitan Police Department. However, experts and advocates warn that the move could compromise the lab’s impartiality, with council members being urged to preserve its independence to avoid increasing the risk of wrongful convictions and miscarriages of justice. (May 4, 2023) The DCist

Auto theft epidemic

Auto thefts in the DMV area are on the rise, with over 100,000 auto crimes committed since 2021, according to police records. Washington D.C. and Prince George’s County are seeing a significant increase in auto thefts this year, with the latter’s police data showing auto theft at 190% above last year’s pace. (May 1, 2023) ABC News

Judge’s conflict of interest

Three criminal cases will receive new hearings after their original sentences were handed down by a judge who had been discussing a job switch to the local prosecutor’s office. Recently retired Montgomery Circuit judge David Boynton began negotiations with the State’s Attorney’s office last year while still presiding over criminal hearings, without disclosing the job discussions or his subsequent agreement to take the position. (May 1, 2023) The Washington Post 

New detection measures

Virginia public schools are considering adding weapons detectors to combat school shootings. However, the effectiveness of current measures is in question, and the addition of new security measures comes at a cost. (May 4, 2023) Virginia Mercury

Red Flag Law funding in limbo

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration applied for federal funding worth $5 million last year, intended to assist the implementation of the state’s red flag law. However, no decisions have yet been made about how the funds may be used, and the governor’s stance on the issue remains unclear. (May 1, 2023) Virginia Mercury

Program helps veterans navigate criminal justice system

The Virginia Supreme Court authorized veterans’ treatment dockets to help veterans involved with criminal justice. Veterans in the program have to meet with local probation officers, do drug screening, receive service, and develop case and success plans with treatment providers. The program connects veterans with local, state, and federal resources. (May 4, 2023) Prince William Virginia Government Communications Office  

Federal assault

Two federal corrections officers working at United States Penitentiary Hazelton in West Virginia were charged with assault and civil rights violations after allegedly striking an inmate, causing significant injuries. (May 2, 2023) WV News

in other news

US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar demands action

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar condemns police violence, proposing a resolution condemning police brutality worldwide and advocating reallocating funding toward mental health programs and violence prevention. Omar mentioned that the “heightened scrutiny and spotlight on state-sanctioned violence on to Black bodies” has failed to curb police brutality. (May 3, 2023) The Guardian 

Lethal Injection Controversy

A Florida pharmacist’s testimony has been used to defend lethal injection protocols in executions across the country, despite having no authority to prescribe the drugs. (Apr. 29, 2023) ProPublica 

Reform advocates form “End the Trial Penalty Coalition”

Activists from 24 civil rights and criminal justice groups have formed the “End the Trial Penalty Coalition,” aimed at reforming sentencing practices to prevent individuals convicted at trial from facing lengthy prison sentences than those who accept plea deals. (May 3, 2023) Reuters 

Understaffed and overworked

Federal prisons across the United States are struggling with a staffing crisis due to low pay, which has led to the use of untrained employees and mandatory overtime, raising safety concerns for inmates and staff. (May 1, 2023) The New York Times

community board

D.C. Jail Residents denied Life-Saving Care. Virginia’s Circuit Court Backlog Leaves Individuals Behind Bars. W. VA State Police Faces Disturbing Allegations

justice from the frontlines: May 1, 2023

D.C. Jail Residents Denied Life-Saving Care

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee filed a class action lawsuit against the D.C. Department of Corrections (DOC) for failing to provide adequate medical care to residents of a D.C. Jail. The lawsuit details how residents with serious medical conditions miss life-saving medication and wait months or years for medical attention. The suit seeks a court order to improve the jail’s medical care system, ongoing monitoring and enforcement, and compensation for damages. The DCist (Apr. 26, 2023)

VA’s Only Private Prison Future Uncertain

MPD police in DC.

The Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) is considering whether to renew its contract with GEO Group to run the Lawrenceville Correctional Center, the state’s only privately operated prison. The current contract, which has been in effect since August 2018 and ends on July 31, has cost the company $4.3 million due to persistent staffing shortages. Virginia Mercury (Apr. 26, 2023) 

From Postponements to Prolonged Incarceration

The backlog of cases in Virginia’s circuit court system has worsened during the pandemic, leading to individuals being jailed for extended periods. Factors contributing to the backlog include case continuances, multiple trials, and a lack of available court dates. The pandemic further disrupted trials, leading to postponements and a surge in plea bargains to secure release from jail. The Virginian-Pilot (Apr. 27, 2023)

Beyond Hidden Cameras, Allegations Multiply

More allegations have emerged against the West Virginia State Police beyond hidden cameras in the women’s locker room of abuse, harassment, and sexual misconduct. Additional allegations have also surfaced including improper sexual relationships with instructors, physical assaults, and evidence of a cover-up. WOWK (Apr. 26, 2023) 

Eight Years After Freddie Gray’s Death

Freddie Gray’s death eight years ago brought attention to racial injustice and police brutality in Baltimore. While the movement has faded, grassroots initiatives have emerged to address community needs. Redevelopment is underway at Mondawmin Mall, and the Baltimore Police Department has made progress in complying with a federal consent decree. Maryland also passed the Police Accountability Act, promoting officer accountability and transparency. The Baltimore Sun (Apr. 25, 2023) 

Adnan Syed Appeals Conviction

Adnan Syed, of the “Serial” podcast fame, has requested a Maryland appeals court to reconsider his reinstated conviction and sentence. Syed’s attorneys argue that the court failed to require the presence of Hae Min Lee’s brother at a crucial hearing. The Baltimore Banner (Apr. 26, 2023) 

in other news

The Justice Department’s second-highest-ranking official, Lisa Monaco, called for the eradication of sexual abuse in federal prisons during a nationwide training for prison wardens. This comes after AP investigations uncovered flaws within the federal Bureau of Prisons, including a permissive culture that enabled abuse. AP News (Apr. 26, 2023)

Bipartisan legislation introduced aims to strengthen oversight of federal prisons, including provisions for a prisoner hotline to report misconduct, federal watchdog inspections, and response plans. ABC News (Apr. 26, 2023)

California and Texas face challenges in their juvenile justice systems, with California’s Attorney General criticizing the unsafe conditions in Los Angeles County facilities, and Texas lawmakers considering an overhaul to address abuse and mismanagement. The Marshall Project (Apr. 15, 2023) 

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is taking action to terminate seven employees for failing to conduct proper checks on a 16-year-old boy who died by suicide in a prison cell. Despite a history of suicidal behavior, Joshua Keith Beasley Jr. had been transferred to the adult prison system. The Texas Tribune (Apr. 25, 2023)

community board

More gun violence hits DMV; W. VA trooper placed video camera in female trainee locker room; Congress blocks DC police reform bill

justice from the frontlines: April 24, 2023

More shooting victims in Baltimore

Baltimore police are investigating a quadruple shooting in the Charles North neighborhood, all four men hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. Police are searching for witnesses and cordoned off the area. The Baltimore Banner (Apr. 17, 2023)

House attempts to block DC police reform

MPD police in DC.

The House passed a resolution blocking a police accountability package in Washington, D.C. which includes a ban on chokeholds, access to officer disciplinary records and body camera video. This comes after Congress passed a resolution a month ago that overturned a D.C. law lowering penalties for certain crimes. NBC News (Apr. 19, 2023) 

Baltimore officer charged with assault in arrest

Baltimore police Officer Kevin Hilton has been indicted on second-degree assault and misconduct charges for shoving a handcuffed man into a patrol car despite his screams of pain. The man informed police that he had undergone knee replacement surgery and couldn’t bend or lift his leg. The officer has been suspended from his duties. The Baltimore Banner (Apr. 19, 2023) 

transgender women sues Baltimore jail system for prison rights.

Lawsuit filed for the poor treatment of transgender people in MD

A transgender woman Chelsea Gilliam filed a lawsuit against the state-run Baltimore jail system. She claims the jail placed her in an all-male dorm, allowed other detainees to sexually assault her and harass her. Her allegations echo the stories of others who testified before Maryland lawmakers to change the policies surrounding how transgender people are treated in prisons and jails. The Baltimore Banner (Apr. 19, 2023) 

Grand jury refuses do indict

A Fairfax County, VA grand jury did not indict a police officer who fatally shot 37-year-old Timothy McCree Johnson. Johnson was killed after being chased by police through a mall where he allegedly stole sunglasses from a store. Johnson’s family’s lawyer called the shooting an “execution.” Johnson’s mother believes her son would not have been killed if it weren’t for racism. The DCist (Apr 18, 2023)

Good time credits in VA go to court

The Virginia Supreme Court will hear two cases filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenging the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) over a reversal on earned prison sentence credits. The ACLU alleges the policy change was unlawful because it was not applied retroactively. The state Supreme Court agreed to hear both cases. The Virginian-Pilot (Apr. 20, 2023) 

W. VA state trooper placed camera in female trainees locker room

A second notice to sue the West Virginia State Police was filed by an attorney on behalf of five women who were training at the State Police Academy during the time a camera was discovered in the women’s locker room. The notice follows a state Department of Homeland Security investigation that revealed a senior state trooper placed the camera before March 2016, and that other troopers destroyed evidence in the form of a thumb drive containing video from the camera in the women’s locker room.  WV Public Broadcasting (Apr. 20, 2023) 

MD prisons severely understaffed

A new report by AFSCME Maryland Council 3 warns that Maryland prisons are facing a staffing crisis that threatens public safety due to “alarming levels of mandatory overtime, burnout and dangerous working conditions”. The union estimates that Maryland’s adult prisons would require the hiring of 3,417 new officers to reach safe staffing levels. The shortage has led to a higher number of violent assaults and other issues that have affected prisoner well-being and services like visitation and medical appointments. The Baltimore Banner  (Apr. 20, 2023) 

in other news

Officials involved in the 2019 shooting of Jacob Harris have been found to have made inconsistent or false statements, while Harris’s friends are facing murder charges; his father, Roland Harris, continues to fight for justice. The Appeal (Mar. 14, 2023) 

The Supreme Court ruled that Texas death row inmate Rodney Reed can seek post-conviction DNA evidence to prove his innocence in the 1998 murder of Stacey Stites. CNN (Apr. 19, 2023)

The Justice Department urges state and local judges to reduce fines and fees charged in their courts that disproportionately affect the poor, juvenile offenders, and people of color, calling the practice discriminatory and damaging. The New York Times (Apr. 20, 2023) 

community board

Gun violence at D.C. funeral; A new DMV non-profit hopes to stem shootings; VA Gov. takes away ex-felon voting rights

justice from the frontlines: April 17, 2023

Third mass shooting this year hits D.C.

In the third mass shooting in D.C. this year, four people shot, one fatally, at a funeral. Police Chief Robert Contee said several individuals were targeted, although authorities are unsure why. The shooter or shooters have not been identified. The DCist (Apr. 11, 2023)

Peace for D.C.

The non-profit organization Peace for DC aims to reduce shootings in Washington, D.C., by using “community violence intervention” methods, which seek to reduce violence without relying on police and the traditional criminal justice system. The program is also a diversion from the street teams of violence interrupters. The DCist (Apr. 11, 2023)

Held for 34 years for three murders one man could see release

Phillip Clements, who was convicted of murdering three people, is seeking to be released from prison after serving 34 years of his five consecutive life terms. While the victims’ family members are against his release, both prosecutors and the defense argue that Clements has clinically been deemed a low risk to society, has been substance-abuse-free for 20 years, and deserves a second chance. A decision is expected on May 8th. The Washington Post (Apr. 8, 2023)

AG’s team up

D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb aims to partner with his counterparts in Virginia and Maryland to form a regional response to the city’s gun violence issue. The proposal was in response to a letter from Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, who demanded action after a Virginia woman was murdered in her D.C. hotel room. WUSA9 (Apr. 14, 2023)

Youngkin limits the restoration of voting rights 

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin is facing a federal lawsuit after slowing down the process of restoring voting rights for the formerly incarcerated. While Virginia is one of a small number of states where it’s up to the governor to decide whether people who’ve convicted felony offenses regain their right to vote, the last three governors had streamlined the process, but Youngkin has not specified his criteria for restoration. Critics say this is following a legacy of disenfranchising Black voters. NPR (Apr. 14, 2023) 

Forced exposure

A woman is suing the Portsmouth sheriff and a deputy after being forced to expose her genitals, along with at least one other female detainee, to prove they were menstruating at Portsmouth City Jail in May 2022. According to the lawsuit filed by Danaesha Martin, the deputy ordered the detainees to expose themselves as a condition of obtaining sanitary products. The Virginia Mercury (Apr. 11, 2023) 

W.VA whistleblower comes forward

West Virginia State Police Cpl. Joseph Comer came forward as the author of a five-page anonymous letter alleging wrongdoing within the department. The letter, sent to Governor Jim Justice, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and state lawmakers, alleged sexual assaults, thefts, and other misconduct. WBOY 12 (Apr. 12, 2023)

An end to pot stops

Maryland lawmakers passed a bill that prohibits police from using the smell of marijuana alone as a source of reasonable suspicion or probable cause for a stop or search. The Daily Record (Apr. 12, 2023)

in other news

New York City plans to deploy security robots, GPS launchers, and Boston Dynamics’ “DigiDog,” which was previously criticized and pulled from service, in its continued efforts to enhance public safety, according to Mayor Eric Adams. The New York Times (Apr. 16, 2023) 

A new plan for police and court system reform in Jackson, Mississippi, implemented by the predominantly white state legislature, was met with opposition in the primarily Black capital city. The New York Times (Apr. 10, 2023) 
The Army allowed soldiers charged with violent crimes to leave the military rather than face trial. When the soldiers leave the Army with a negative discharge, they avoid possible federal conviction and have little record of the allegations against them. Propublica (Apr. 10, 2023)

The eight Akron, OH officers who shot and killed Jayland Walker last summer won’t be criminally charged. A jury found that the officers actions were justified. The Akron Beacon Journal (April 17, 2023)

An 84-year-old white Kansas City, Missouri man was charged with two felonies on Monday after he allegedly shot a Black teenager who walked up to the wrong house to pick up his twin brothers. Reuters (April 18, 2023)

community board

video released of Black teen shot in D.C. by U.S Park Police; DC hiring bonuses increase in drought of applicants; VA AG calls out D.C. crime; CARES Act house home confinement inmates can stay

justice from the frontlines: April 10, 2023

DC Black teen killed by U.S. park police

The Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Park Police released video footage of the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Dalaneo Martin in Northeast D.C. last month. Martin was found asleep in a car that police suspected of being stolen. Footage shows officers ambushing Martin while he was asleep and a Park Police officer shooting him five times after he woke up and accelerated with the officer inside the car. Martin’s family demanded justice for their loved one. His mother called for the release of the name of the officer who shot her son and for all officers involved in the shooting to be charged with murder. The DCist (Apr. 4, 2023

No one wants to be D.C. Five-O

D.C. Mayor, Muriel Bowser, announced an increased hiring bonus for police officers, raising the amount to $25,000, a $5,000 increase from the current amount, as police departments across the U.S. are struggling to hire and retain officers. The new bonus surpasses the $20,000 incentives offered in Montgomery County and Anne Arundel County. New recruits receive $15,000 when hired, with the remaining $10,000 paid after completing the police academy. The move comes amid debates over police staffing and budget cuts, with Bowser pushing for the force to return to 4,000 officers, while critics advocate limiting police responsibilities by diverting to other agencies to improve response times and reduce overtime costs. The DCist (Apr. 7, 2023)

Juvenile Justice Overhaul

The Department of Juvenile Justice in Virginia is implementing new rules for the discipline of youth held in the state’s detention centers and juvenile prisons, including limits on physical restraints and requirements of frequent checks on young people isolated after an infraction. The changes have been made to establish clearer guidelines and set new rules on the use of room restriction and physical and mechanical restraints. The use of physical restraint will be a last resort measure when other methods have failed and will be used only when the residents’ behavior threatens their safety or others’. The Richmond Times-Dispatch (Apr. 5, 2023)

Christian programming blocks inmate‘s release

Andrew Miller, an atheist and secular humanist incarcerated at Saint Marys Correctional Center and Jail in West Virginia, is suing the officials in charge of the state’s jails and prisons for violating his constitutional rights. Miller alleges that the state has required Christian-affiliated programming as a condition of release, including Christian reading materials and mandated Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings where the Serenity and Lord’s Prayer are recited. His attorneys are requesting the court immediately provide secular alternatives for all religious elements in the program and remove the program as a requirement of Miller’s reentry plan. AP (Apr. 7, 2023)

AG pressures D.C. on crime

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares urged D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. Council to address a “crime explosion” that he says is putting Virginia residents at risk. In a letter, Miyares claimed that officials refused to address the increase in crime in D.C., which has seen a 30% rise in homicides and a 21% increase in carjackings compared to the same time last year. Miyares cited the killing of a Virginia resident at a D.C. motel last week, whose alleged murderer had previously been released on bail for a robbery offense. Violent crimes committed by adults are prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney for D.C., but Miyares urged Bowser and the council to do more to address crime. The DCist (Apr. 6, 2023)

Voting rights reversal

The trend of states loosening restrictions on voting rights for former felons in the United States could be at risk of reversing, as some Republican-led states roll back policies that allow those who have served time to cast a ballot. While Virginia’s governor recently revoked an automatic restoration of voting rights policy, North Carolina’s Supreme Court is expected to rule on a lower court’s decision to restore voting rights to residents who completed their sentences. Experts say political polarization is eroding the bipartisan consensus that previously existed on restoring voting rights to those who have paid their debt to society. The New York Times (Apr. 6, 2023)

CARES Act house home confinement inmates can stay

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has been able to monitor minimum-security inmates on home confinement under the CARES Act since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the program is set to end in mid-May 2023, but the success of the initiative led BOP Director Colette Peters to issue a memorandum to all Residential Reentry Managers that individuals placed on home confinement under the CARES Act will remain there for the remainder of their sentence, provided they follow the rules and regulations of community placement. Forbes (Apr. 5, 2023)

From the Des

in other news

Clearview AI used nearly 1m times by US police, it tells the BBC

Robin Farris released from Colorado women’s prison after 30 years and governor’s commutation (read her essay for The Des)

The Bureau of Prisons Proposes to Raid Incarcerated People’s Bank Accounts

community board

D.C. police reform rollback. MD juvenile detention horror. MD police officer prosecution. execution recordings withheld.

justice from the frontlines: Mar. 13, 2023

police reform rollback

House Republicans put forward legislation aimed at reversing several police reforms in Washington, D.C following Congress’s recent measure blocking a separate D.C. crime bill. The reforms were enacted to increase transparency and limit the police union’s authority in disciplinary disputes. Among the changes were a prohibition on the use of neck restraints and more stringent limits on the police’s ability to disperse crowds. The Hill (Mar. 10, 2023)

juvenile detention horror

The Maryland Office of the Public Defender sent a letter to county leaders saying that children detained at Baltimore County Detention Center are locked up for 23 hours a day in rodent-infested cells that sometimes flood with sewage water, adding that the jail is not in compliance with federal laws governing juvenile detention. The office asked for the “immediate transfer” of detained youth to the Department of Juvenile Services. The Baltimore Sun (Mar. 10, 2023)

police officer prosecution

The Maryland Senate has approved legislation that would enable the attorney general to prosecute local police officers who are found to be criminally responsible for causing injury “likely to result” in death or killing someone. The proposed legislation would allow the attorney general to have exclusive authority over the prosecution of the officer or request that the local state’s attorney handle it. The Daily Record (Mar. 9, 2023)

families fight for justice

Families of 13 inmates who died at Southern Regional Jail gathered at the West Virginia State Capitol to demand a federal investigation into inhumane treatment and deaths at the jail and other local prisons. Bishop William Barber II and the West Virginia Poor People’s Campaign supported the families in presenting a petition to Governor Justice. WV Metro News (Mar. 10, 2023)

petitions skyrocket

Virginia’s Fairfax County courts have simplified the process for record-sealing petitions due to an increase in caseload, no longer requiring a court hearing for those seeking expungement. Since March 2022, the court received 701 petitions, up from 211 the previous year. Virginia’s recent law has made it easier to seal or expunge misdemeanors and certain felony convictions, with automatic sealing for eligible charges set to begin in 2025. FFX Now (Mar. 7, 2023)

execution recordings withheld

The Virginia Department of Corrections now possesses at least 35 audio tapes documenting executions between 1987 and 2017. However, the department has refused requests to release them, citing security, privacy and personal reasons. The tapes, which offer rare insight into a secretive process, came to light when NPR aired stories that prompted the Virginia Department of Corrections to ask for four tapes in the possession of the Library of Virginia to be returned. NBC Washington (Mar. 7, 2023)

in other news

The US Justice Department opposes a bipartisan proposal to limit judges’ ability to impose longer sentences based on alleged crimes, even if a unanimous jury has acquitted the defendant of the same allegations. Reuters (Mar. 7, 2023)

After Congress blocked the new D.C. criminal law, similar efforts to bypass local governance are taking place in other states, primarily led by Republicans. The Marshall Project (Mar. 11, 2023)

The Justice Department has found that the Louisville Metro Police Department in Kentucky engaged in a “pattern of discriminatory and abusive law enforcement practices.” The report found broad patterns of discrimination against Black people and those with behavioral health problems. The New York Times (Mar. 8, 2023)

A bill in Texas proposing a mandatory 10-year prison sentence for anyone who uses a gun while committing a felony has drawn criticism from both criminal justice reform advocates and gun rights groups. The Texas Tribune (Mar. 9, 2023)

community board

Biden blocks DC reforms; Fairfax streamlines record expungement; VA parole board faces transparency; W. VA approves campus carry

justice from the frontlines: Mar. 6, 2023

Biden blocks DC reforms

President Biden is willing to sign a Republican-sponsored resolution that would nullify the new DC criminal code laws. Biden’s willingness comes amid growing concern over rising crime in DC and across the US. The revisions passed by the DC Council aim to redefine crimes, change criminal justice policies, and rework how sentences are handed down. The Republican-controlled House believes that the city’s changes would contribute to rising crime and make it easier for some criminals to get out of prison. The bills backers says the reform will reduce the impact of the criminal justice system on minority groups. PBS NewsHour (Mar. 2, 2023) 

lawmakers push school policing

Four D.C. lawmakers have proposed legislation that would reverse a measure to remove police officers from schools by 2025. Council member Vincent C. Gray and others are backing the measure, citing concerns about safety. Critics of the bill claim that the presence of school resource officers leads to increased distrust of law enforcement and can cause student arrests. Although the proposed legislation may face obstacles, proponents of the bill argue that trained officers play a crucial role in school communities and public safety. The Washington Post (Mar. 2, 2023) 

Fairfax streamlines record expungement

Residents in Fairfax County no longer need to appear in court to expunge their criminal records. Petition for record expungement can be filed through paperwork, which will be reviewed weekly. Virginia has some of the most restrictive expungement criteria in the country, but the General Assembly passed a law in 2021 that would automatically seal non-convictions and some convictions in 2025. The new policy is the latest push to change the county’s criminal justice proceedings led by Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano. The DCist (Mar. 3, 2023)

VA parole board faces transparency

Virginia’s Parole Board will have to hold public hearings and provide more information to attorneys and inmates involved in cases as part of a new parole transparency measure that was approved by the Virginia General Assembly. The Parole Board would no longer have immunity from transparency rules that apply to most government bodies. The legislation, which the governor is reviewing, would require more frequent and detailed reports, making more of its investigative information available, and striking the Parole Board’s FOIA exemption from state law. The Virginia Mercury  (Mar. 1, 2023)

Baltimore intervention program succeeds

Roca, a nonviolence intervention program for 16- to 24-year-olds in Baltimore, is making a positive impact on its target population with a focus on teaching emotional control to those from violent and traumatic backgrounds. A new study released by Roca Baltimore indicates that participants in the program are seeing lower recidivism and arrest rates, more connections to employment, and improvements in mental health assessments. The group has purchased a building in Baltimore and plans to expand into Baltimore County while continuing to train juvenile services workers and Baltimore Police officers through its Roca Impact Institute. The Baltimore Sun (Mar. 2, 2023)

MD Republicans push crime measures

 MD state Republican caucus members are pushing crime-fighting measures in the General Assembly. They’re focusing on initiatives to make gun theft a felony, increase sentences for repeat gun offenders, and allow minors between the ages of 10 and 12 to be charged with gun crimes. Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan Bates is also receiving bipartisan support for his proposal to lengthen jail time for illegal gun possession from three to five years for people between the ages of 18 and 20. WBAL TV (Mar. 2, 2023)

W. VA approves campus carry

W. VA Governor Jim Justice signed a bill allowing people with concealed carry permits to bring firearms onto public college and university campuses. The law takes effect in July 2024 and bans open carry on campus. Exceptions are allowed in certain areas and institutions can regulate firearms in residence halls. The presidents of the state’s largest institutions of higher learning opposed the bill, and a public hearing last month saw almost all speakers oppose it. PBS NewsHour  (Mar. 1, 2023)

in other news

New York City has agreed to pay $21,500 each to hundreds of protesters who were “kettled” by police during 2020 protests against the killing of George Floyd. The legal settlement could cost the city between $4 million and $6 million. The New York Times  (Mar. 1, 2023)

A report from the Council on Criminal Justice, finds that a disjointed and haphazard system of programs and a lack of awareness are partly to blame for a staggering number of veterans getting arrested or otherwise having to deal with the justice system.  (Mar. 2, 2023)

The U.S. Marshals Service suffered a security breach on February 17, compromising sensitive information including law enforcement sensitive information, administrative information, and personally identifiable information, according to senior US law enforcement officials. NBC News (Feb. 27, 2023)

community board

DC and MD push for more Police. Lawsuit filed against DC police for 2020 George Floyd protests. Deaths behind bars rose 50% in pandemic year one

justice from the frontlines: Feb. 27, 2022

Call for more police

Ward 7 Councilmember Vince Gray introduced a bill to increase the Metropolitan Police Department’s force to 4,200 officers. The bill authorizes the mayor to fund recruitment and retention efforts without additional Council approval and requires MPD to deploy officers to neighborhoods with high levels of violent crime. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson criticized the bill, stating that it won’t get far and that the police department struggles to get applications. Washington City Paper (Feb. 23, 2023)

Sued for civil rights violations

A civil justice organization has filed a lawsuit against the D.C. police for violating demonstrators’ rights to free speech and assembly during the 2020 racial justice protests. The police used excessive force with stinger grenades, foam or rubber bullets, and flash-bang devices against peaceful protestors. The lawsuit claims that Mayor Muriel E. Bowser and then-D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham authorized the police to attack peaceful protesters. The plaintiffs are seeking compensation for medical expenses and pain and suffering, and punitive damages against each unnamed D.C. police officer. The Washington Post (Feb. 22, 2023)

To be heard

Terrence Richardson, who was sentenced to life in prison in 1998 for the intent to distribute crack cocaine, was granted an appeal by the Virginia Supreme Court. Prior to the drug case, Richardson was charged with the murder of a police officer but acquitted by a jury. However, federal prosecutors referenced the murder in the drug case against Richardson, resulting in his life sentence. Richardson’s attorney called the court’s decision to hear the appeal “a significant victory” for his client’s efforts to prove his innocence. ABC News (Feb. 24, 2023)

W. VA protest high number of jail deaths

Activists with the Poor People’s Campaign are calling for a federal investigation into West Virginia jails following a rise in the number of reported deaths. There were 13 reported deaths at the Southern Regional Jail in 2022 in comparison to over 100 deaths in the state’s total regional jail system in the past decade. They are planning rallies in Beckley and Charleston. WV Public Broadcasting (Feb. 23, 2023)

Democratic MD Gov. to rebuild state police

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore announced several initiatives to invest in public safety and rebuild the state police force. The governor ordered all public safety agencies to produce “After Action Reports” to promote transparency and accountability. Additionally, the governor announced $11 million in funding to support the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center, which will expand staffing, conduct training, and invest in technology infrastructure. The Southern Maryland Chronicle (Feb. 24, 2023)

MD Juvenile corrections under new leadership

The Maryland Senate has confirmed Vincent Schirald to lead the state’s Department of Juvenile Services. Schiraldi, a former commissioner of New York City’s Department of Correction, was the only governor nominee to be confirmed without unanimous approval. Republicans expressed concern that Schiraldi focuses too much on rehabilitation at the expense of accountability. However, Democratic lawmakers supported Schiraldi, with Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chair Will Smith calling his record “sterling” but also cautioning that Maryland needs accountability for the department and its new secretary. The Baltimore Sun (Feb. 22, 2023)

in other news

Deaths in state and federal prisons across America rose by nearly 50 percent during the first year of the pandemic. The New York Times (Feb. 19, 2023)

A prison in Georgia has a program called GBT that teaches incarcerated people how to transcribe braille. Filter Magazine (Feb. 16, 2023)

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine introduced the EQUAL Act, a bipartisan legislation that aims to eliminate the federal sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine and apply it retroactively. ABC News (Feb. 23, 2023)

in other news

Deaths in state and federal prisons across America rose by nearly 50 percent during the first year of the pandemic. The New York Times (Feb. 19, 2023)

A prison in Georgia has a program called GBT that teaches incarcerated people how to transcribe braille. Filter Magazine (Feb. 16, 2023)

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine introduced the EQUAL Act, a bipartisan legislation that aims to eliminate the federal sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine and apply it retroactively. ABC News (Feb. 23, 2023)

community board