Congress blocks D.C. laws, again; VA aims to end solitary; MD police accused of using quotas.

justice from the frontlines: Feb. 13, 2023

canceling solitary confinement

credit: adobe stock

The House and Senate in Virginia are considering a bill to limit the use of solitary confinement to 15 days in a 60-day period. However, the bill has divided the two houses and has undergone changes, such as the removal of the 15-day limit, at the request of the Virginia Department of Corrections. The use of solitary confinement has been criticized for being a form of torture and violating prisoners’ rights. A select group of delegates and senators will now meet to compromise on the bill and if unsuccessful, the push for solitary reform will fail for the year. ABC News (Feb. 8, 2023)

Compassion for elder prisoners

Queens House of Detention, New York

Maryland’s Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee heard testimony on Wednesday in support of legislation to improve and enhance medical and geriatric parole for the state’s incarcerated elderly population. Research by the Justice Policy Institute found that the recidivism rates of people 60 and older who are released from corrections in Maryland is about 3% and nearly eight out of 10 individuals serving the longest prison terms are Black. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Shelly Hettleman, seeks to not only improve and streamline the state’s medical and geriatric parole system but also show compassion for older inmates. The legislation is cross-filed in the House of Delegates and is supported by Del. David Moon and Del. Sandy Bartlett. Maryland Matters (Feb. 9, 2023)

MD police on shaky ground

Maryland State Police supervisors have been accused of using a points-based system similar to a ticket and arrest quota, which was banned in the state over 15 years ago. Leaked internal documents revealed a “goals and expectations” memo detailing the number of traffic stops, citations, warnings, arrests and other metrics that would meet the agency’s monthly expectations. Delegate Robin Grammer, an Essex Republican, has introduced legislation to tighten the state’s ban on ticket and arrest quotas for law enforcement. He claims the documents are proof that “politicized law enforcement” still exists. The Baltimore Banner (Feb. 8, 2023)

Congress blocks D.C. autonomy, again

The Republican-controlled US House has voted to block two local bills in D.C. with support from several Democrats. The two bills, one allowing noncitizens to vote in local D.C. elections and another revising the city’s criminal code, have now been sent to the Senate. The broad support from both parties to block the bills dealt a blow to local officials who had asked Congress to stay out of the city’s affairs, but the number of Democratic defections show that D.C. may not find as much support from congressional Democrats. The Washington Post (Feb, 9, 2023)

D.C. metro gets more police

D.C. Metro will pay D.C. police officers overtime to increase patrols at five rail stations during rush hours. The increased police presence is an aim to make the Metro safer and build rider confidence after three recent shootings. The patrols will begin this week and continue through June. Two officers per station will conduct joint patrols. Metro is tapping extra resources because its transit police force is understaffed, but there are similar issues in the city’s normal police force. DCist (Feb. 8, 2023)

W. VA tackles mental health and justice

The West Virginia Senate passed a bill to create a study group focused on the over-representation of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the criminal justice system. The group will recommend ways to divert these individuals from prisons and state hospitals and provide plans for care, treatment, and placement in the community. The bill must now be passed by the House of Delegates. The Parkersburg News and Sentinel (Feb. 7, 2023)

in other news

A new podcast from reporter Trevor Aaronson details the story of an FBI informant who infiltrated the racial justice movement in Denver.

too old school: ‘Only in Mississippi’: White representatives vote to create white-appointed court system for Blackest city in America

unbelievable ruling: Alabama AG: ‘Pain related to difficulty’ from execution IVs not cruel, unusual punishment

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