A summer job can do a lot, but it’s no guarantee to keep guns off the streets 

A summer job can do a lot, but it’s no guarantee to keep guns off the streets 

The heralded Marion Barry Summer employment program gives jobs to young D.C. kids, but it falls short as an answer to the rising gun violence

As the rate of gun violence rises in the District, local leaders have encouraged their community to work towards protecting and educating youth. Mayor Muriel Bowser took youth employment seriously early this year. She introduced the Mayor’s Opportunity Scholarship which allows 25 summer youth employment participants ages 18 to 24 to earn a scholarship for postsecondary education. In 2019, she stood as the spokeswoman for the Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program or MBSYEP. In January of this year, Mayor Bowser announced that applications would be accessible for youth ages 14 to 24 and that hourly wages would be raised for participants.

For over 40 years, the Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Employment Program has served D.C. youth through short-term employment and training. It honors Mayor Barry’s pursuit of career development for youth and has gained traction throughout the country. Today, there are hundreds of similar programs following in its footsteps to keep disadvantaged youth out of trouble during the summer. 

New York City’s Summer Youth Employment Program, for example, has been widely successful, offering 100,000 employment opportunities this year. MBSYEP continues to stand as the largest summer youth employment program per capita in the country and is a trailblazer for other cities. Cities are lowering the risk of exposure to, or participation in, violence, yet the scope of the program cannot tackle youth gun violence independently. 

For Capitol youth, the Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program has been praised as an opportunity to earn a salary and gain purposeful, hands-on experience in the workforce. Figures published by the mayor’s office show that in the past ten-years, over 10,000 youth have participated in MBSYEP each year. 

"I walked away with a sense of work ethic, and trained me as a young person to be courteous and listen to authority."

One past participant, Khat Patrong, said that her past summers went by faster and with more purpose. “I walked away with a sense of work ethic, and trained me as a young person to be courteous and listen to authority,” said Khat, who was a participant for three years . MBSYEP was pivotal for her career path, as it has been for hundreds of past participants. After producing a commercial for a local performing arts high school, Khat later worked in film.

For D.C., it has been seen as a pipeline for disadvantaged youth in the District to engage in their community and break cycles of crime and poverty. 56% of its participants are residents of Wards 7 and 8. In terms of employment outcomes, MBSYEP has been widely successful. In 2016, nearly 50 percent of participants secured employment by the end of the year. In a  2020 Independent Evaluation by the Department of Employment Services, youth participants reported to be overwhelmingly satisfied by the experience, over 40% saying that they were happy with their pay rate and with their employer. Yet, the program has not been shown to curve the rising issue of youth gun violence. 

It was estimated that the cost per participant was over $2000. In a landscape analysis of D.C. by the National Institute of Criminal Justice Reform, the District was reported to have a number of programs and strategies to combat gun violence. Yet, said programs and strategies were seen as “uncoordinated and disjointed.” Muhammed and the National Institute of Criminal Justice Reform found in a number of reports that D.C. was seen as “resource rich, coordination poor,” yet was slowly working towards serving every ward effectively. 

Over the past four years, rates of gun violence with youth victims or aggressors has doubled in America. For children ages 1 to 18, gun violence has surpassed car accidents and illnesses as the leading cause of death. This rise is tangible in D.C., with over 50 children shot in 2023 as of August, surpassing last year’s record. The growing population of juveniles shot, killed and arrested for gun violence has deeply affected communities within the Capitol. The violence has left city leaders desperate to find  a way to curve this rate; few have turned to summer employment. 

When Marion Barry founded MBSYEP in his first term as the District’s mayor in 1979, he saw the program as an opportunity to support youths transitioning from school to a career. For all youth in America, employment fosters independence and responsibility, which can later support them in their career and other long-term endeavors. The Journal of Public Health Management published that teenage work experience leads to development, adding to resume building and leading to higher-paying careers. 

In appropriate jobs, youth get the opportunity to develop confidence in their abilities. Leah Frerichs said in her research that often underprivileged youth are forgotten in employment and internship opportunities. MBSYEP gives this overlooked population a chance to gain valuable work experience. The program works with 11 D.C. high schools – Eastern, H.D. Woodson, Anacostia, Ballou, Cesar Chavez, Columbia Heights, Roosevelt, Cardozo, Ron Brown, Dunbar and McKinley Tech– to reach disadvantaged youth.

"If you’re saying that the answer to youth gun violence is summer youth employment, you are incorrect."

Though there are obvious benefits to the program for participants  learning  workforce skills, there has been no concrete proof that summer youth employment is the answer to rising gun violence as many local leaders claim. 

David Muhammed, Executive Director of the National Institute of Criminal Justice Reform, fears that summer youth employment gets a bad rep because of this. “If you’re saying that the answer to youth gun violence is summer youth employment, you are incorrect,” Muhammed said. 

“Summer youth employment is violence prevention, not an alternative to public policy or legislation.” Muhammed believes that MBSYEP has given hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged youth rewarding opportunities, which deserves to be celebrated, but this by itself will not put an end to youth gun violence. 

MBSYEP aims to  develop youth through employment and shadowing of professionals. Given that it has over 10,000 participants yearly, it is difficult to track their long-term outcomes. However, according to MBSYEP, the program is keeping the youth out of trouble and financing their spending. In a 2020 MBSYEP Report, up to 13.3% past participants come back the following summer, with over 9,939 participants working at least an hour; that’s an hour where these youth are off of the streets and are supervised by D.C. professionals. 

Though MBSYEP gives a range of opportunities, in terms of hours worked and in job sectors, participants are less likely to partake in gun violence when they are earning a wage. In the country, MBSYEP is the first program to give youth a wage. With youth earning up to $17 per hour, local businesses have reported a boost in their economy. In 2019, there was a gross payroll of over $9 million, 21.9% of which was for food and transportation. Participating youth additionally reported that a percentage of their earned wages were allocated for secondary education funds and for their parents or family. 

Despite these benchmarks, there is frustration over the summer program and doubts of whether it is cost-effective for the District. Over the years, the budget for the program has doubled. This year, the Department of Employment Services allocated $21 million to the program, though there has not been any public record of how the fund is being budgeted or how participants get paid. The MBSYEP Office declined to comment on this. 

When speaking with Khat, she believed that the cost was appropriate for MBSYEP. In High School, Khat was homeless. She shared that without MBSYEP, she would not have been able to support her and her mother. One cannot put a price when it comes to the service and hands-on experience. “It keeps peers my age busy as well. When you’re idle and don’t have any activity to do, you can get in trouble” she said. 


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Failings of youth incarceration

The Sentencing Project held a webinar to discuss the problems of youth incarceration In the face of increased pretrial detention in The District of Columbia,


A new investigation reveals gun seizures under Bowser’s police department broke the law

Journalists Alex Coma and Mitch Ryals published an investigative story uncovering a criminal investigation of 19 D.C. police officers for misconduct while serving in a crime suppression unit. Originally an internal MPD inquiry, the investigation has since been upgraded to a criminal inquiry, with allegations including taking firearms without making arrests and filing false reports.

House of pain

House of Pain: an introduction

My name is Bernard Jemison and I will briefly explain my story. I’ve been incarcerated since May 13, 1998, over 25 years now for felony murder that should have been self-defense. I was sentenced to serve life with the possibility of parole in the Alabama department of corrections.

More Voices of Justice To Come

17 people shot and killed in D.C. in one week, the community responds, police ask for information on suspects, Council Member suggests calling Natl. Guard

justice from the frontlines: Aug. 8, 2023

Note from the editor: We are experiencing a real and overwhelming spike in violence in D.C. We at The Des implore readers and community members to read, educate yourself and act from compassion and facts not fear. Many of the people most impacted by the violence aren’t the loudest voices. Do not let this violence become a political pawn or let yourself be played by leadership and politicians. We need solutions. And to get to solutions, we need an engaged community. We hope the recent spike in violence will make the entire city engage in real solutions and tough conversations. These solutions must be all encompassing – police and prisons will not stop this violence. At The Des, we will continue to cover both the violence and solutions.

Police block off the scene of a triple homicide in NW D.C. on Saturday Aug. 5, 2023.

Gun violence sweeps NW and SE D.C.

Starting Friday night, multiple mass shootings hit D.C. along with other single victim homicides. The first was in the Adams Morgan (there were other shootings on U Street that night). Saturday night, three people were killed and two injured critically in Southeast D.C.

17 people were killed in total last week. The police chief didn’t have much to add past a plea for people who saw any of the shootings to come forward with evidence. D.C.’s police union went after a council member following her statement on the Adams Morgan shooting who supported defunding the police.

This has been the community response so far.

Other events this week:

  • The 40 Days of Increased Peace events continue this week offering movies, dance classes and more across the city. See all the events here.
  • We’ve updated The Des’s community calendar for the next two weeks.

The week before the record homicides, D.C. government focused on addressing crime in Chinatown despite it being one of the least impacted by gun violence this year. Other areas like NW and SE that would see mass shootings a few days later did not get visits. Chinatown has been a rapidly gentrified area full of luxury apartment buildings that are still near the Capitol.

Areas more impacted by crime did not get visits from the Chief of police or coverage by The Washington Post until multiple homicides occurred. The Post dedicated most of its D.C. coverage to which areas Trump had recently mentioned, yet again demonstrating the lack of national media to fully comprehend local issues or care. The New Yorker ran a long piece on how D.C.’s crime code reform became a national political soccer ball for Congress, highlighting the lack of statehood which prevents the city’s efforts to govern itself and respond quickly to community needs.

Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bates, shown at a news conference earlier this year.

free Adnan Syed 

After a pleading, public defenders asked Maryland Supreme Court to keep Adnan Syed free. Syed was reinstated in the killing of Hae Min Lee, his ex-girlfriend and High School classmate. His public defender argued that the issue was moot, given that Baltimore prosecutors dismissed the case. Syed asked the state’s highest court to take the case, after claims that prior hearings and in-person attendance was violated. The Lee family has urged the Justice to hear the matter. The court has scheduled an oral argument for October 5, where they will deeply consider questions raised in Syed’s appeal.  The Baltimore Banner (August 2, 2023)

fixing healthcare in Baltimore jails

Reports by court-appointed monitors cast doubt that Baltimore City jails can comply with medical care requirements set for June 2024. Monitors have documented inmates with severe mental illness suffering in solitary confinement, error-prone records, missed medications, and inmates with disabilities that are misidentified or unaccommodated. Caught in a lawsuit, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services have claimed that it is “fully committed to resolving the various challenges related to the Duvall case.” Officials are targeting the end of 2025 to be fully compliant, despite the fact that the judge has given a six-month extension two years ago.   The Baltimore Banner (August 2, 2023)

25% decline in Baltimore homicides

A view of the D.C. Superior Court building in downtown Washington.

In July, Baltimore recorded 19 homicides, the lowest count since 2015 in what is historically the city’s deadliest month of the year. The city reported 159 homicides in 2023, a 25% decline from July of last year. Mayor Brandon Scott has touted public safety efforts and the Baltimore Police Department for curving the rates of homicides. Despite the current pace of homicides, analysis has shown that the reduction in violence is not proportionally shared across the city. One analysis found that high-school-age youth have been shot at a record number this year. Baltimore Banner (August 2, 2023)

Maryland juvenile justice laws

Local leaders pledge to seek changes to Maryland juvenile justice laws. Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan Bates remarked, “Young people are supposed to have wraparound services. So, the law fails the public because there is no public safety. It fails the young people because they are not getting services.” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott agreed, saying he wants significant changes made.  In the next session of the General Assembly, the mayor and state’s attorney plan to lobby state lawmakers to enact change. Although there is no plan for a special session, the chairman plans to hold a briefing to address the issue of youth gun violence. WBALT TV (August 2, 2023)

operation bold blue line

The D.C. Jail.

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin updates law enforcement drug safety initiative, called “Operation Bold Blue Line.” The state-wide initiative works to remove illegal drugs off the streets and keep the commonwealth safer. Since the initiative’s early stages, there has been a removal of 2,060 pounds of illegal narcotics across the state. The operation comes at a time when law enforcement vacancy rates are nearly 40%, leaving state-funded agencies stretched thin. In response to its early success, the initiative will work with the Virginia General Assembly to fund a victim/witness assistance program, which would provide funds for lodging, relocation expenses, transportation and other necessary services.  ABC 8 News (August 1, 2023)

transgender inmates at higher risk

In an investigation by News 3, transgender inmates were reported to be at a high risk of physical assault. A 2015 survey of over 27,000 transgender inmates showed that nearly a quarter of respondents were physically assaulted by staff or other inmates, and one in five were sexually assaulted while in prison. Director of U.S Transgender Survey Josie Caballero responded, “It proves more about how in danger the trans population is when you are incarcerated. A lot of this has to do with inmates being out in the wrong jails and prisons.” 3 WTKR (July 31, 2023)

DC man brutally arrested in MD

Video shows D.C. man being brutally arrested on Ocean City, Maryland Boardwalk. Parents of the victim claim that the officers targeted him because they were enforcing a ban against vaping on the boardwalk. Police documents reveal that Ruff had “intentionally smoked his vape,” despite being told about the ordinance, and refused to stop when police ordered. His mother said in a statement, “I felt his fear. I felt my fear. I felt how close we were to possibly losing him.” Ruff was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting/interfering with an arrest, 2nd-degree assault, and failure to provide proof of identification because of his retaliation. CBS News Baltimore (July 12, 2023)

14-year-old arrested for crime spree

Prosecutors said that within a span of two hours, a 14-year-old and three others carjacked, robbed, and fatally shot a 34-year-old man. For nearly three hours, D.C. homicide detective Jeff Clay testified that authorities identified the teen as a suspect based on evidence from security cameras from around the city that he captured the crimes. The 14-year-old’s identity has not been disclosed, but the teen and others have been charged with crimes including felony murder while armed, attempted robbery while armed, carjacking while armed, two counts of robbery while armed, and carrying a pistol without a license. The Washington Post (August 1, 2023)

in other news

After George Floyd’s murder, states are demanding the release of police disciplinary records. Lawmakers have introduced over 500 bills addressing police investigations and discipline, sixty-five of which have been put in action. Greater transparency should hold officers accountable and look for patterns of police abuse. Virginia Mercury (August 2, 2023)

In New York’s red light district, sex workers have reported that police see them as “disposable.” Officers are pushing workers to take greater risks to survive, through searches and arrests. Legislators are looking for the answer to this problem in the Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act, which will eliminate penalties for consensual sex work and strengthen labor protection for sex workers. The Guardian  (August 3, 2023)

Solitary confinement survivors rally in support for proposed federal ban of the practice. Standing in support of these survivors, Congresswoman Bush remarked, “Solitary confinement is a deprived and sadistic practice.” Number of reports have shown that solitary confinement is comparable to psychological torture and can lead to migraines, vertigo, and claustrophobia. Truthout (August 4, 2023)

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  • Read: Anthropologist in Baltimore Argues Safety for Black Communities Requires an End to Policing 
  • Read: Black Drivers in Virginia are More Likely to be Stopped After Drop in Searches
  • Volunteer: The “Comeback Backpack” Prepares People for Life Post-Incarceration
  • Report: Social Intervention Can End Mass Incarceration and Improve Public Safety
  • Read: Wells Fargo Pledges $60 Million for Worker Re-Entry Program 
  • Read: Bowie State University Expands Program for Inmates Earning Degrees
  •  Report: Safety Beyond Sentencing

Fatal shootings tear D.C. apart

justice from the frontlines: July 30, 2023

Brooklyn Day shooting victims

The Baltimore Police reportedly seized the belongings of the Brooklyn Day shooting victims. One woman said that the police had taken two of her favorite designer accessories when her son was in surgery. These accessories add up to a cost of $2,500. In 2021, there were a number of class-action lawsuits against the city over police seizures of personal belongings as evidence. The lawsuit is in settlement talks. A spokesperson for the Police Department said “evidently property” is held until the conclusion of a criminal case, and that it shares this to victims through its Victim Services Unit. Of the nine requests to hand back belongings, it has honored two of them, for a vehicle and a cell phone.  The Baltimore Banner (July 25, 2023)

ShotSpotter launched in Baltimore County

Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bates, shown at a news conference earlier this year.

Despite its rising controversy, Baltimore County will launch the gunshot detection system, ShotSpotter, as a part of a two-year $738k pilot program paid for with federal pandemic funding. ShotSpotter uses audio sensors to identify “gunshot-like sounds,” alerting police of where gunfire may have occurred. Software developers claim that its real-time tracking can locate a shooting more quickly and accurately than witnesses who call the police. It will cover roughly 5.2 square miles in unspecified areas of the Essex and Wilkens precincts. The system has been scrutinized for years by constitutional right activists and jettisoned by jurisdictions for its efficacy. The Baltimore Banner (July 26, 2023)

Alexandria police chief speaks out

Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Leonard Bishop (7F08) after receiving a food handling certificate.

Alexandria Police Chief Don Hayes told FOX 5 that in his 30 years in the city, he has never seen crime and violence so rampant. He believes that the rise in crime is interfering with the quality of life for residents. Alexandra is 15 square miles with a little over 150,000 people. Hence, it is shocking that there have been a total of 48 shots fired calls for service in the city. Hayes said, “I can tell you; I don’t think we’ve hit this number in this timeframe in the City of Alexandria, ever.” Hayes believes that this is an underlying societal issue, and not exclusively a “police problem.” FOX 5 (July 26, 2023)

laughter allegedly sparks fatal shooting

A view of the D.C. Superior Court building in downtown Washington.

Outside a hotel in Capitol Heights, three people were arrested and charged in a fatal shooting. According to a preliminary investigation, there was a dispute after the victim “began laughing with his friends” when the other party was locked out of his hotel room. Police have reviewed hotel surveillance video which showed the verbal argument. Officers arrived at the scene after the shooting. They later shared that the victim had gunshot wounds and was taken to the hospital, where he died. There has yet to be a statement from attorneys or the family. The Washington Post (July 28, 2023)

judge denies indictment to police officer

A judge denied a petition by former Fairfax County police officer Wesley Shifflett to get his job back after he shot and killed a suspect earlier this year. In February, Shifflett killed unarmed Timothy Johnson, who was accused of shoplifting. Shifflett was denied indictment on charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless discharge of firearm. Despite this, Shifflett petitioned for his return, arguing that the county did not follow the legal grievance process in his termination. NBC Washington (July 27, 2023)

lack of diversity in Virginia State Police

The D.C. Jail.

Phillip Diamond overheard a white supervisor say that he wanted to hire another officer before the hiring process for a sergeant. Diamond said, “You can’t tell me that wasn’t biased. It seems like they are choosing who they want to choose, and it may not be the best qualified person.” This has sparked a conversation surrounding diversity in the department. Public data shows that white applicants are accepted at higher rates than minority applicants. White men make up 80% of Virginia State Police, whereas Black men make up 8%. Another report showcased the disparity between white and Black officers, revealing that minority employees did not “perceive a level playing field within.” The Daily Progress (July 28, 2023)

staffing challenges for D.C. police chief

Floyd Branch III, a restorative justice specialist for Montgomery County Public Schools, speaks about the practice at an elementary school PTA meeting.

Chief Pamela Smith is facing challenges when it comes to staffing. Smith seeks to deploy more officers to locations in the city dealing with a spike in crime. Despite her efforts, the News4 I-Team uncovered that these neighborhoods have seen a shrinking police force. Since January, there have been 41 shootings or homicides with a gun in Police Service Area 708, which is 16 more than this time last year. A criminologist at Virginia Commonwealth University said that understaffing is “bad for public safety and it’s bad for community relations.” NBC Washington (July 20, 2023)

shooting at recreation center

One man was shot and killed at Marie Reed Recreation Center in DC. The man was identified as 30-year-old Arnold Humberto Solis. According to the police investigation and witness testimony, a number of men were sitting in the bleachers at a soccer game when a fight broke out. The situation escalated when a firearm was discharged. There was no verbal interaction beforehand and no prior indication of any threat to public safety. The shooter is unidentified and was reported leaving the scene before the police arrived. DC News Now (July 27, 2023)

From the Des

in other news

Patrol dogs are terrorizing and mauling prisoners across the country. Photographs have been taken showing men prone or shackled as dogs attack. Prisoners have reported that officers shouted racial slurs watching the attacks. In the United States, 12 states have authorized the use of attack-trained dogs in prison, and records show that states have their own protocol for deploying them. Insider (July 23, 2023)

Alabama’s chemical endangerment law makes it illegal to expose or permit a minor to ingest illegal drugs. In Etowah County, prosecutors have held pregnant women in prison for exposing their fetus to marijuana. Many women jailed for chemical endangerment were arrested for using before they were aware they were pregnant, never getting the chance to quit before they were arrested. The Marshall Project (July 26, 2023)

The House Democrats are proposing a bill that would broadly ban the use of solitary confinement in federal prisons, jails and detention centers. The End Solitary Confinement Act would put an end to prohibiting isolating inmates and detainees with few exceptions while ensuring their due process rights. Solitary Watch (July 27, 2023) 

The Fort Belknap reservation in Montana is suing the federal government over lack of police funds. Two Indigenous tribes, the Assiniboine or Nakoda and the Gros Ventre, who refer to themselves as A’aninin or “People of the White Clay,” inhabit the reservation. One resident said, “They’ve been neglecting us for over 23 years; we’ve exhausted all options. They just don’t seem like they care.” The lawsuit was filed in October after a request for $5.3 million in funding. The Guardian (July 26, 2023)

In Mississippi, those with serious mental illness or substance abuse can be jailed, even if they are not charged with a crime. Since 2006, at least 13 people have died in Mississippi county jails as they awaited treatment for mental illness or substance abuse. Nine of the 13 killed themselves. Mississippi Today (july 27, 2023)

community board

  • Apply: The Sentencing Project is Hiring for Undergraduate Youth Justice Advocacy Fellow 
  • Petition: National Campaign to Close Central Cell Block (CCB) 
  • Read: How Connecticut has Cut Incarceration in Half 
  • Watch: Company Strives to End Cycle of Recidivism and Mass Incarceration
  • Watch: Nonprofit Receives $100K grant for work in DC Juvenile Justice System 
  • Read: Prince George’s County Weekly Update 
  • Read: Ending Eternal Punishment for Young Adults

Prioritizing Public Safety: D.C. Public Safety Bill and Controversies, Recent Criminal Justice Reforms, Youth Justice Initiatives, and Police Leadership Change.

justice from the frontlines: July 23, 2023

public safety bill signed in D.C.

Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the Prioritizing Public Safety Emergency Amendment Act of 2023, which expands pretrial incarceration for both adults and juveniles who have committed violent crimes. It will grant police officers more access to private security cameras purchased through the District’s rebate program. There has been an array of responses to the bill. Many argue that the bill will not prevent crime. Police director for the Georgetown Juvenile Justice Initiative said that detention is counterproductive and can encourage youth to further engage in criminal behavior.  DC News Now (July 20, 2023)

quality-of-life citation back in Baltimore

Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bates, shown at a news conference earlier this year.

Quality-of-life citations are making a come-back in Baltimore’s city courts after the State’s Attorney Ivan Bates began re-prosecuting them. Bates recalled the non-prosecution policy in order for greater accountability in petty crimes and offenses. The state attorney seeks to grant defendants with “wrap around services,” like drug treatment and housing resources, in order to offer accountability and help. There has been backlash in response to the policy. Its opponents argue that it furthers consequences when individuals are cited more than once and distracts from community-based efforts to support individuals dealing with poverty, mental illness, and substance use issues. The Daily Record (July 19, 2023)

ANC scheduled for transfer to Kentucky prison

Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Leonard Bishop (7F08) after receiving a food handling certificate.

Leonard Bishop, the incarcerated advisory neighborhood commissioner, said that he is scheduled to transfer back to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons penitentiary in Kentucky. Bishop claims that he has not been given any explanation for the transfer and asked to be “afforded the opportunity to carry out his elected term as ANC Commissioner of 7F08.” Over his term, he advocated for the rights of incarcerated people to testify during D.C. Council hearings. In D.C., he has enrolled in classes through Georgetown University and Ashland University and has stepped up as a mentor in the Lead Up program. When he returns to the BOP, he will no longer have access to college classes or such opportunities. Washington City Paper (July 17, 2023)

11-year-old arrested in assault and robberies

A view of the D.C. Superior Court building in downtown Washington.

An unnamed 11-year-old was arrested in connection with an assault and two robberies in May. The three charges were dismissed. Months later, he was arrested on charges of armed robbery and carrying an unlicensed pistol. This comes at a time when D.C. authorities are struggling with violence against juveniles and fear young children are at higher risk for crimes. The Office of the Attorney General of the District of Columbia said in a general statement that though they prosecute for all serious crimes, they “also advocate for every young person who commits a crime to receive services and support they need to prevent them from reoffending.” The Washington Post (July 19, 2023)

restoring voting rights to felons

NAACP Virginia President Robert N. Barnette, Jr., speaks about a Freedom of Information Act related to the changes the Youngkin administration made to restoring rights to formerly incarcerated people near the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Va., on Tuesday, July 18, 2023. From left, Denise Harrington, Gaylene Kanoyton, Barnette and Karen Jones attended the press conference.

The Virginia NAACP demanded Governor Glenn Youngkin to publicly share criteria for restoring the voting rights of convicted felons who have saved their time. Currently, there are no clear guidelines on when an application should be granted or denied. President of Virginia’s NAACP Robert Barnette Jr. has described it as a “painfully slow opaque process” and as secretive and discriminatory against people of color. There have been two lawsuits filed over Youngkin’s process because of its lack of protocol and its confusing nature. The Hour (July 18, 2023)

resident pronounced dead at D.C. Jail

The D.C. Jail.

24-year-old Marktwan Hargraves was pronounced dead in a D.C. Jail. Staff at the jail found him unresponsive and administered CPR and naloxone. D.C. Fire and EMS also arrived on scene. Police and the Department of Correction are investigating the incident, but the cause of death is still unknown. Last year, eight other people died in DOC custody, from causes that include suicide, homicide, drug overdose and heart disease. The DOC is required to publicly share information about people who died at jail, which includes their name, gender, race, and ethnicity, and the circumstances surrounding their death. DCist (July 20, 2023)

restorative justice

Floyd Branch III, a restorative justice specialist for Montgomery County Public Schools, speaks about the practice at an elementary school PTA meeting.

Teacher Vicki Rotker has led a “community circle” in Kingsview Middle School in Germantown. The community circle or restorative circle works to diffuse tension and allow children to learn from their mistakes through conversation. Instead of focusing on punishment, the method encourages responsibility and resolution to move forward. The school is a part of the Montgomery School District, which is introducing restorative justice practices to all its schools. This practice has long been used in indigenous cultures as a part of alternative sentencing. School administration has received pushback from parents and staff, saying that harsher discipline can be necessary to hold students accountable. Many fear that it will lead to a “free for all” in public schools. The Hechinger Report (July 15, 2023)

child confinement in D.C.

In D.C.’s youth pretrial detention facilities, children are being confined in their cells beyond the legal limit. Detention facilities are severely understaffed and are relying on extended periods of confinement. At this time, staffing shortage is so severe that the agency is no longer monitoring kids at risk of suicide. There have been reports of children being confined to their cells for as long as 23 hours a day. Advocates and lawyers say that DYRS has been in violation of a number of policies, but DYRS has yet to respond to these allegations. City leaders, however, have pushed back against these reports, saying that DYRS is committed to “loving” children within their custody. DCist (July 21, 2023)

Pamela Smith as D.C.’s new chief of police

Pamela A. Smith takes the oath as the Metropolitan Police Department’s acting chief.

Mayor Muriel Bowser nominated former U.S. Park Police chief Pamela Smith to lead the city’s police force. Smith has over 25 years of experience in law enforcement and will be the second woman and first Black woman as the city’s chief of police. Smith plans to prioritize tackling gun violence, especially among youth. Growing up in foster care, Smith has always been driven to a career in public service and in guiding the youth to make a positive impact. She said in a statement, “I live in Ward 8, and I believe that every resident of the District of Columbia has a right to feel safe.” City officials are optimistic for the changes that Smith will enact in the coming years. WTOP News (July 17, 2023)

safer streets start in classroom

A new D.C. bill will encourage school districts to develop an age-appropriate curriculum to teach conflict resolution skills. This will be introduced in elementary school and continue through high school for D.C. youth. The possible financial impact has not been released or specified in the bill. However, legislation will provide school districts additional financial or nonfinancial resources if necessary. D.C. Ward 4 Council member Janeese Lewis George was among the seven members supporting the bill. She is confident that the curriculum will allow youth to process emotion and feelings in an appropriate manner that avoids violence. WTOP News (July 21, 2023)

From the Des

in other news

Jermaine Cannon will be the second inmate in Oklahoma to be sentenced to death row this year. He will be the ninth state execution since the state reinstated the practice back in 2021. Jurors unanimously chose the death penalty, after his trial. Attorney General Gentner Drummond said in a statement that he was pleased with the board’s decision to deny Cannon clemency. The Frontier (July 17, 2023)

The American Civil Liberty Union uncovered that Louisiana youth are in solitary cells with no air conditioning or windows. It is alleged that youth are only given few minutes outside of their cells and are being maced by officers. 15 of imprisoned youth are reported to be housed in former death row cells, 14 of which are Black. The Guardian (July 18, 2023)

There have been failures to carry out lethal injections in the last year in Alabama. Alan Eugene Miller detailed his execution in legal filings, reporting “sudden and severe pain,” after the prison spent two hours sticking needles all over his body. Despite its failure, the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) have reported “no deficiencies” in executions. Bolts Magazine (July 18, 2023)

The Council on Criminal Justice has reported crime trends in U.S. cities through June 2023. The report showed a snapshot of the crime rates and offenses for 37 cities. The authors concluded that crime patterns shifted in response to the pandemic and have recommended policies to combat a rise in crime. Council on Criminal Justice (July 2023)

community board

  • Memoir: Former Police Officer Serves Life 
  • Read: How Peer De-Escalation Works Within Prison as a Violence Harm Reduction
  • Read: Controversy Surrounding Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Policies and their Effectiveness
  • Read: Incarcerated Mother Separated from Children Under Minnesota’s Healthy Start law
  • Tweet: Analysis of Shootings in Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department 
  • Petition: No New Letcher Prison

Insights on Public Safety: Baltimore Police Leadership Change, Controversial D.C. Crime Bill, Officer Convicted of Child Assault, Youth Crisis Listening Session, Legislative Actions, Lawsuit & Support for Emergency Crime Measures

Justice From the Frontlines: July 16, 2023

Leadership Change In Baltimore Police Department

From left, former Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, Mayor Brandon Scott and Acting Commissioner Richard Worley sit down for an interview with The Baltimore Banner and its media partner, WJZ-TV at City Hall on July 12, 2023. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

In mid-May, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison gave his 90-day notice as he resigned as the city’s head cop. Less than a month later, Harrison during a press conference announced that he would immediately be stepping down from the role. Deputy Richard Worley had already been chosen and then took charge in the span of 10-hours. Later in an interview with Baltimore Banner, Harrison confirmed that it was “totally his decision.” This is one of the several high-profile departures from City Hall, during Scott’s administration. The Baltimore Banner (July 13, 2023)

Controversial Crime Bill In D.C.

D.C. City Council passed an emergency bill that some critics are concerned will disproportionately affect residents and lead to mass incarceration. The bill was passed in light of the rising crime in D.C. This year, the homicide rate is at 17% with 129 people killed and 500 people shot. Its critics have said that it will unfairly target Black people and will keep juveniles and adults jailed before pre-trial if charged with a serious crime. Despite their concerns and lack of research to back it up, Mayor Murial Bowser and supporters believe that it will have an immediate and positive impact in D.C. DC News Now (July 11, 2023)

D.C. Police Officer Guilty Of Repeated Sexual Assault Of Child

Charles Johnson was convicted of numerous child sex abuse charges, including multiple counts of first degree child sexual abuse, multiple counts of first-degree sexual abuse, second-degree child sexual abuse, and attempted first-degree child sexual abuse and assault. Johnson will be sentenced in October and faces life in prison. He has since been suspended from his  position with the Metropolitan Police Department without pay and is in the process of being fired. If released, Johnson will be required to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life. NBC Washington (July 12, 2023)

Listening Session For Youth Crisis

Members of one Montgomery County community gathered together to address the youth crisis. The listening session was hosted by the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee and had speakers who worked on the front-lines of the crisis. The purpose of the gathering was to listen and give community members to voice their fears. County agencies were on hand with information about mental health and substance abuse resources. Montgomery County leaders said that this is the first of the many meetings they will host to tackle the youth crisis. NBC Washington (July 11, 2023)

Multiple Bills Passed Addressing Crime In D.C

The D.C. Council passed multiple bills aimed at addressing crime and accountability in Washington, D.C. One bill allows judges to hold individuals in jail before trial if they are likely to have committed a violent crime, targeting repeat offenders. However, council member Janeese Lewis George voted against the bill, expressing concerns about potential unjust imprisonment. Another bill requires the 911 call center to publicly disclose data on mistakes and dropped calls, increasing transparency and accountability. The Council also approved a bill permitting high speed car chases by D.C. police officers, with strict limitations to ensure public safety. Lastly, the Council unanimously passed a bill mandating an independent investigation into sexual harassment allegations against the former chief of staff to Mayor Muriel Bowser: John Falcicchio. Wtopnews (July 11, 2023)

D.C Sued For Poor First Response Protocol For Mental Health Crisis

Nonprofit organization Bread for the City, alongside the D.C. ACLU and law firm Sheppard Mullin sued Washington, D.C., for dispatching armed police officers as the default first responders to mental health crises. The lawsuit argues that this violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by denying people with mental health disabilities equal access to emergency care. D.C.’s community response teams, staffed by mental health professionals are understaffed and underfunded, resulting in less than 1% of mental health emergency calls receiving a response from these teams. In contrast, police officers who aren’t equipped to handle mental health crises, are often the first to arrive. The lawsuit cites instances where police responses have led to excessive force and harm. WAMU 88.5 (July 11, 2023)

Chairman Of The D.C Police Union Voices Support Of Emergency Crime Legislation 

Gregg Pemberton, chairman of the D.C. Police Union, supports emergency crime legislation proposed by Councilmember Brooke Pinto but believes it is insufficient in addressing overall crime statistics. Pemberton blames progressive factions of the D.C. Council for a rise in violent crime and a decline in police recruitment. He criticizes bills he views as anti-police and pro-criminal and commends the council for finally discussing measures to hold criminals accountable. (July 11, 2023) Fox 5 Washington D.C

Wilson Family Lawsuit Against Fatal Shooting

The family of Lazarus Wilson, who was fatally shot by off-duty MPD Commander Jason Bagshaw at the Wharf in July 2022, has filed a $25 million lawsuit against the District, MPD and Bagshaw. The lawsuit claims that Bagshaw’s use of force was excessive and that his failure to identify himself as a police officer led to Wilson’s wrongful death. The family also accuses Bagshaw, the department, and the District of gross negligence. The suit seeks damages and requests the implementation of training protocols to prevent similar incidents. MPD declined to comment on the lawsuit. If not dismissed the case may take several years to go to trial. dcist  (July 13, 2023)

From the Des

In Other News

A Nebraska woman pleaded guilty to two felonies and one misdemeanor, after helping her 17-year-old daughter get an abortion in 2022. Her now 18-year-old daughter was charged as an adult for removing, concealing or abandoning a dead body and took a plea deal. She faces up to two years in prison. ABC News (June 7, 2023)

A new law will give a formerly incarcerated man in Oakland the opportunity to serve others, by creating a support network for those looking for a fresh start. The law will allow ex-felons to seal their criminal records. CBS Bay Area (July 12, 2023)

Teenagers are reportedly purchasing ghost guns and parts online. Experts are concerned at the ease with which they can now require deadly weapons. This comes at a time when the Biden administration is trying to rein in the use of ghost guns in violent crimes. Washington Post (July 12, 2023)

Jessica Burgess, a Nebraska mother, pleaded guilty to providing her 17-year-old daughter with pills for an illegal abortion after 20 weeks of gestation. Burgess also admitted to false reporting and tampering with human skeletal remains. After the abortion, Burgess and her daughter burned and buried the remains in a field. The daughter pleaded guilty to removing, concealing, or abandoning a dead body. Both women face sentencing, with Burgess scheduled for September 22 and her daughter for July 20. abc News (July 7, 2023)

On July 3rd Jarrell Garris, a 37 year old Black man was shot by police in New Rochelle, New York. Garris was accused of stealing fruit from a grocery store and the police claimed Garris attempted to grab an officer’s gun, leading to the shooting. Garris died in the hospital a week later. His family has filed a lawsuit, alleging excessive use of force and racial bias. The incident highlights tensions between law enforcement and Black residents in Westchester County and reflects broader systemic issues surrounding mental health and policing. The New York Times (July 13, 2023)

The Supreme Court declined to hear the case of Tony Clark. A Black death row inmate from Mississippi, convicted of murdering a 13-year-old during a robbery. His lawyers claim prosecutors unlawfully removed Black jurors during his trial. The decision drew dissent from the liberal justices, who accused the conservative majority of backtracking on their previous stance against racial bias. The court’s refusal to intervene raised concerns about its commitment to addressing systemic racial bias in the criminal justice system. The decision marked a departure from the court’s previous ruling in a similar case, fueling criticism of its approach to equal protection. NBC News (July 5, 2023)

Community Board

  • Publication: Incarceration gap between immigrant and US-born 
  • Read: Life After Release holds annual Ocean City retreat
  • Read: Upcoming D.C Justice events
  •  Tweet: Attend the community safety fair July, 29th

D.C.’s Youth Summer Program Has Set An Example For Decades

D.C.’s Youth Summer Program Has Set An Example For Decades

How a Locally Funded Initiative Strives to Empower District Youth

Zoe Kim
Zoe Kim

Research & reporting intern at the Des

The Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program, or MBSYEP, offers enriching work experience in private and government sectors to District youth ages 14 to 24. For 44 years, the program has partnered with hundreds of employers in the capital to deliver training and counsel. Last year, MBSYEP worked with over 13,000 youth, 56% of whom were Ward 7 and 8 residents. City leaders in D.C. have encouraged youth to enroll in the programs in response to a rise in youth crime.

The program is sponsored by the Department of Employment Services, so while giving the youth hands-on work experience, the locally-funded program pays them up to $17/hour in line with the minimum wage. This year the department allocated 21 million dollars to raise participants’s hourly wages, serving the local economy as well.

For six weeks, participating D.C. youth are paired with employers based upon their interests, equipping them with the tools for leadership and professional development. MBSYEP partners with District high schools to further engage with the youth. In 2020, the program had over 19,000 applicants, yet only 9,000 were certified as eligible. Interest in MBSYEP is only rising as the program receives a greater number of applicants each year.

The program has been deemed an alternative to expanding the police force and local jails. Though it runs June through August, it introduces the youth to unique opportunities that keep them out of trouble. In a 2020 independent evaluation, 79.6% of participants reported that they were satisfied overall with their experience that summer. 

Today, MBSYEP is the country’s biggest summer youth employment program per capita. Many other cities have turned to MBSYEP as an example for tackling the rising number of youth who engage in gun violence. To learn more, please visit https://summerjobs.dc.gov/.


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More Voices of Justice To Come
More Voices of Justice To Come

DMV Tackles Gun Violence and Drug Trafficking in the Summer: Cities Announce Youth Curfew, Over 3,000 Gun Related Arrested and Seizures, Police Officers Make a Comeback to High Schools

Justice From The Frontlines: June 25, 2023

MD Police Chief Gets Life In Prison

David Crawford, a former police chief in Laurel, Maryland, was sentenced to eight life sentences plus 75 years for a series of twelve arson attacks. Crawford set fires at homes, cars, and garages of his victims. In some cases, Crawford set homes alight while families slept inside. Prosecutors reported that he sought revenge against a number of victims who he believed wronged him over petty grievances. In 2011, Crawford had developed a target list and began igniting fires with gasoline across six counties in Maryland. Crawford was arrested two years ago after authorities linked him to the fires. The Washington Post (June 27, 2023)

Cities Set Curfew For Youth

Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott announced that the city will enforce a youth curfew, after the shooting of two teenagers this spring. At a press conference, he said that this strategy is “about saving lives in every single way.” Since the beginning of the year, dozens of other cities and counties announced similar curfews for youth safety despite research that shows that the strategy is ineffective. Criminal justice reform advocates push back, arguing that these policies do not prevent violence and are potentially harmful for young people. They raised concerns about curfews leading to more interactions with police for Black and Latino teenagers. The Baltimore Banner (June 29, 2023)

Felony Disenfranchisement Laws

The American Civil Liberties Union sued Virginia and its Governor Glenn Youngkin to restore voting rights to felons. Virginia is one of the few states that automatically revoke voting rights for convicted felons unless the governor restores them individually. The lawsuit accuses Virginia of violating Reconstruction-era federal laws put in place after the Civil War. One plaintiff in the lawsuit was forced to apply to have his voting rights restored after spending 11 months in prison on a single 2018 felony drug possession charge. The plaintiff said, “I feel like I don’t have anybody to speak for me. I have no say on who represents me.” NBC Washington (June 26, 2023)

Incarceration And Homelessness

Formerly incarcerated Virginians are reported to be ten times more likely to face homelessness than their counterparts. Over 64,000 currently incarcerated Virginians will be vulnerable to housing insecurity once released. Shiri Yadine, the senior program manager for the Corporation for Supportive Housing, reported that race plays a significant role in this disparity. She said, “The system that has the most disparity is justice-involved youths. Black children in the commonwealth are eight times more likely to have justice involvement than anyone else.” She is advocating for more funding for supportive housing. Virginia Mercury (June 29, 2023)

D.C. Council Debates Controversial Crime Legislation

The D.C. Council held a hearing to discuss a proposed package of laws by Mayor Muriel Bowser aimed at addressing rising crime rates in the city. The legislation includes measures such as stricter penalties for gun related crimes, favoring pretrial detention and limiting early release for longer prison sentences. Over 160 people testified at the hearing. There was a divide between those advocating for tougher policies and longer sentences and those concerned about a return to failed “tough on crime” approaches. There was a consensus that the city’s violence levels had become unacceptable. The council will continue to debate and propose amendments to the bill in the coming weeks. DCist (June 27, 2023).

12 Arrested in Bust of Kennedy Street Crew

Twelve members of the alleged Kennedy Street Crew (KDY), an accused violent drug trafficking organization, have been arrested by federal law enforcement agencies and the D.C. police. The group said accused of being responsible for 19 shootings and seven murders along Kennedy Street NW in Washington, D.C. since 2021. Those indicted face federal charges related to drug and gun trafficking. There were significant amounts of fentanyl, cocaine, marijuana and firearms seized during the investigation. Additionally, the group is accused of using shell companies to launder money. The operation was conducted by the Violent Crime Impact Team. NBC Washington (June 27, 2023).

D.C Encouraging Public To Share Gun Tips

The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) in Washington, D.C., confiscated over 3,100 illegal guns in 2022, sourced mainly from states along the southern 95 corridor. Ghost guns, which lack traceable serial numbers are becoming increasingly prevalent. In order to curb this increase D.C. has raised the cash reward for tips leading to gun seizures and arrests, with a minimum of $1,000 and a maximum of $2,500. Tips related to ghost guns will receive a $5,000 bonus. WUSA9 (June 23, 2023)

The Acting Baltimore Police Commissioner’s 25 Year Track Record

Richard Worley, is the acting Baltimore Police commissioner and a nominee for the permanent position. Supporters highlight his deep understanding of the department, while activists emphasize the need for close examination considering the police force’s documented history of unconstitutional policing. Disciplinary summaries obtained through a public records request reveal several complaints against Worley, including traffic accidents and a complaint by a woman whose home was raided by police. However, the summaries only offer a limited view, and a complete Internal Affairs file would provide more information. Worley’s disciplinary history shows incidents such as preventable collisions and closed cases involving workplace conduct and alleged discrimination. The Baltimore Sun (June 29, 2023)

From the Des

In Other News

In response to greater concern over gun violence, Denver schools are bringing back police officers. Parents voiced the need for police officers for the sake of their student’s safety. Critics, however, are worried that this will disproportionately hurt students of color. There has been overwhelming data showing that Black students are far more likely to be arrested than their white counterparts. The New York Times (June 27, 2023)

Florida’s Governor Ron Desantis has spent over 13.5 million dollars to recruit officers in other states who are frustrated by Covid-19 vaccine mandates. His incentive scheme has resulted in a slew of recruited officers with a history of excessive violence or officers who have been arrested since being hired. The Guardian (May 22, 2023)

Three San Antonio police officers were charged with the murder of Melissa Perez after responding to a call outside her house. She was accused of having a “mental health crisis” before her death. All three officers have been released on $100,000 bonds, Bexar County jail records show. The New York Times (June 24, 2023)

The Supreme Court overturned the conviction of an online stalker from Colorado, stating that threats on social media must show subjective intent to be punishable. Supporters claim the decision bolsters free speech protections, while critics worry about the implications for protecting people from online threats. ABCNews (June 27, 2023)

A  report by the Department of Justice blamed the Federal Bureau of Prisons for the conditions that allowed sex offender Jeffrey Epstein to hang himself in his Manhattan jail cell in 2019. The report found that 13 employees within the Bureau of Prisons engaged in misconduct and negligence in their treatment of Epstein. The report also highlighted a pattern of troubling deaths in custody and systemic problems within the Bureau of Prisons. NBC News(June 27, 2023)

Community Board

  • Read: Essay about parental incarceration by 17 year old Joshua Martoma, one of the winners of the Annual Student Editorial Contest.
  • Read: Can cops smoke pot? Revamped legal landscape raises new questions for officers and recruits
  • Read: The argument against charge-based exclusions or “carveouts”
  • Read: Why life without parole in America is a cruel purgatory 
  • Read : Reasons to oppose charge based exclusions in Reform
  • Read: feminist focus on punitive measures destabilizes supportive structures
  • Tweet: Inmates are dying in Texas prisons during heatwave; met with minor acknowledgement

Unclear Reasons for Baltimore Police Commissioner’s Resignation; Lee Family Seeks to Expand Victims’ Rights in Adnan Syed Case; Prince George’s County Jail Short-Staffed, Compromising Safety

Justice From The Frontlines: June 25, 2023

Resignation of Baltimore Police Commissioner

After 4 years leading the Baltimore police force, former Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison announced his resignation on June 8th. Harrison remains on the city payroll without disclosure of the terms of his separation, and Mayor Brandon Scott’s administration has not provided the resignation letter or its date. Harrison was set to serve until March 2024 under a five-year contract, and the reasons for his resignation and the circumstances surrounding it are unclear. Mayor Scott named Deputy Commissioner Richard Worley as Harrison’s replacement.  The Baltimore Banner (June 21, 2023)

Adnan Syed’s Lawyers Oppose Expansion of Victims’ Rights

Adnan Syed was convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 2000 and sentenced to life in prison. Syed’s conviction was initially overturned in 2022 due to withheld evidence and information on alternative suspects. However, the Appellate Court of Maryland later reinstated the conviction and ordered a new hearing. Syed’s lawyers are now urging the Maryland Supreme Court to reject a petition from Lee’s brother seeking to expand victims’ rights in the case. The family is requesting that he be allowed as a victim representative to participate in hearings and potentially challenge evidence and cross-examine witnesses. The role Lee’s brother seeks is not recognized in any state or federal court system. Syed has consistently maintained his innocence and is currently free pending the appeals process.  The Baltimore Banner (June 22, 2023)  

D.C Council Considers New Bill

The D.C. Council is considering a bill that aims to strengthen penalties for domestic and sexual violence cases. Introduced by Councilmembers Brooke Pinto, Zachary Parker, and Anita Bonds, the bill includes provisions to give prosecutors more power in certain cases. The legislation addresses gaps in the legal system and responds to an increase in crimes such as murder and sex abuse. The bill aims to improve prosecution rates by providing prosecutors with increased power and leverage. While some advocates support the bill’s provisions, others object to sections that could violate victims’ privacy. Critics argue that making piecemeal changes to the outdated criminal code exacerbates existing problems and advocate for a comprehensive revision instead. Despite the need for a complete overhaul, Councilmember Pinto believes it is important to make changes in the meantime, as Congress has blocked previous attempts to revise the code. DCist (June 22, 2023)

Short Staffing in Prince George

The I-Team uncovered that Prince George’s County jail has lost nearly one-third of its workforce since 2020. Correction officers report that short staffing is compromising safety within the jail for staff and inmates. One former officer spoke to News4 “It’s a runway machine, and we don’t have the wheels anymore.” Short staffed, the prison has forced officers to work overtime. In every local jurisdiction, corrections staffing is down.The significant number of those who left Prince George have gone to other different jurisdictions. In response, one corrections officer said “What does that say? It says it’s not the profession… It’s our county in particular.” Currently, the county is seeking to fill around 175 vacancies.  NBC Washington (June 21, 2023)

Firearm Experts No Longer Testify Bullet Techniques

The Supreme Court of Maryland ruled that firearm experts can no longer testify a bullet came from a specific gun. Chief Judge Matthew Fader wrote the ruling, after recognizing that firearms identification has been unreliable in linking a particular unknown bullet to a known firearm. Three justices dissented on the decision, claiming that ballistic experts can produce accurate, repeatable, and reproducible results. Others have called it “a step in the right direction.” The ruling was made after a man appealed his conviction of first-degree murder and handgun offenses in the killing of his roommate. The Baltimore Banner (June 22, 2023)

Win for Reform Prosecutor

In Arlington County, reform prosecutor Parisa Dehghani-Tafti wins second term while the county board race remains undecided. The Arlington Democrat received around 56% of the vote, according to the unofficial results of the Virginia Department of Elections. Over 98% of early and day-of votes have been counted as of Tuesday night. Dehgani-Tafti built her campaign around reforming the county’s criminal legal system. She pushed for diversion and treatment for people accused of crimes and ending the practice of cash bail and prosecuting for simple marijuana possession. In a statement to DCist/WAMY, Dehgani-Tafti said “Tonight’s victory showed the voter’s renewed trust in us to continue that work.”  DCist (June 20, 2023)

“It’s a Hate Crime”

The fatal shooting of Nicholas Mireles, his son Mario, and his friend Christian Segovia by a neighbor during a parking spot dispute has been labeled a hate crime by demonstrators. The shooter was a U.S. Army veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Over 200 people marched the streets of Annopolis to mourn the death of three Latino men. Julian Segovia, who lost his brother in a mass shooting in downtown Annapolis, has said “This senseless act of violence was racially-motivated. And we want the world to know.” Other protestors voiced their fears for her children and community. The Baltimore Banner (June 18, 2023)

From the Des

In Other News

The intersection of alcohol and guns poses significant dangers, as research indicates that alcohol misuse increases the risk of gun violence and suicide. Alcohol impairs judgment and lowers inhibitions, leading individuals to make impulsive and dangerous decisions involving firearms. Studies have also shown that individuals with alcohol-related offenses, such as DUI convictions, are more likely to be arrested for violent or gun-related crimes. Efforts to pass laws regulating alcohol and guns have gained momentum in recent years. There is public support for regulations, including a federal gun ban for alcohol abusers. The Trace (June 21, 2023)

Starting July 1, over 700,000 incarcerated individuals in the United States will become eligible for Pell Grants, making higher education more affordable for them. Pell Grants are need-based financial aid from the federal government that do not require repayment and can provide up to $7,395 per academic year for college costs. These grants can now be used by incarcerated individuals in prison education programs (PEPs) to pursue professional certificates, associate degrees, or bachelor’s degrees from partner universities. DCNewsNow  (June 19, 2023)

The New Hampshire judicial branch wants to provide mental health alternatives to incarceration. Commissioner Hanks has reported that up to 90% of incarcerated women in the state have a mental health diagnosis. They plan to implement training for judges and staff, hire a judicial health coordinator, and initiate sequential intercept mapping. WMUR (June 21, 2023) 

Philadelphia’s District Attorney’s Office has reported and analyzed 290,000 cases, concluding that Black Philadelphians were more likely to be charged with felonies and over-assessed for risks. City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier acknowledged past policies that have left majority Black neighborhoods in Philadelphia with disinvestment and “set neighborhoods on a downward trajectory.” The Philadelphia Inquirer (June 19, 2023)

Community Board

  • Watch: Victim/Suspect chronicles journalists Rae de Leon’s investigation into a shocking nationwide pattern
  • Read: For nearly 30 years, only a small percentage of incarcerated people have been able to get college degrees. 
  • Read: Emerging Adult Justice Project develops specialized units for young adults in correctional facilities that offer greater access to educational opportunities and mental health treatment
  • Tweet: Police raid on elderly man’s house but had “the wrong house”
  • Read: How mass incarceration destroys the lives of New York adolescents
  • Read: Challenges arise from an increase in jail population 
  • Hiring: DC Justice Lab seeking full-time Events Producer and Director of Communications 

Harm reduction is saving lives in Baltimore; ex-guards smuggled meth in MD prison; D.C. gun violence claims 22-Year-Old pregnant woman

justice from the frontlines: June 18, 2023

“healthcare on the spot”

Baltimore’s “Healthcare on the Spot” has successfully stemmed overdose deaths. The city’s harm reduction approach is supported and funded by the Biden administration. In comparison to past approaches, it offers life-saving services to opioid users without demanding abstinence. Proponents want to keep opioid users alive, but opponents say that the approach encourages illegal activity. Baltimore’s deputy mayor, Dr. Letitia Dzirasa, defended the approach: “We should be thinking about harm reduction on a spectrum. Some people want to stop using, others want to use safer. It’s about reducing the stigma. Because this is a disease, not a moral failing.” AP News (June 11, 2023)

pregnant woman killed

In a D.C. shooting, a 22-year-old pregnant woman, Samya Gill, was killed while in a vehicle with a man. The man in the vehicle was shot, but his injuries were not life-threatening. Her baby is reported to be in critical condition. Police officers went to the shooting after the department’s ShotSpotter identified sounds of gunfire. The department said that the shooting was captured on camera and showed two men in a white four-door sedan. Both men got out of their vehicle with assault rifles and fired shots at the vehicle. Assistant Chief Andre Wright called this a brazen act and asked the public for assistance in identifying the two shooters. WUSA9 (June 16, 2023)

DSJ secretary on youth gun violence

Maryland’s Department of Juvenile Services Secretary Vincent Schiraldi spoke out against the youth gun violence problem in Baltimore city and county. Youth gun violence is a pressing issue in the city. Schiraldi urged the community to get more involved, suggesting that community members offer mental health services to at-risk youth. WBAL (June 10, 2023)

Biden vetoes republican resolution

The House of Representative failed to override Biden’s veto of a Republican-sponsored resolution which would have blocked a police discipline and accountability bill. The vote fell short of the two-thirds majority necessary to override a presidential override. The bill lays out restrictions for police officers in response to George Floyd’s killing. It orders all body camera footage to be public within five days, restricts the use of tear gas and chemical sprays during protests, and strengthens the jurisdiction of the Office of Police Complaints. Republicans and the police unions argue that it hamstrings police and will make it more challenging for departments to retain officers. DCist (June 14, 2023)

officers arrested for smuggling scheme 

Two Maryland Department of Corrections officers, Julie Chatterton and Monica Shields, were arrested for a smuggling scheme at Roxbury Correctional Institute. Chatterton and Shields used drones to deliver meth to the Institute. The State Secretary for the Department of Corrections Carolyn Scruggs reassured the public, “Our diligent staff recognized what was going on and were able to get enough information to our intelligence and investigative team.” DC News Now (June 13, 2023)

police shooting of Donnell Rochester

In February 2022, Donnell Rochester was shot by Officer Murray. Maryland’s Attorney General Office declared that there was probable cause to charge Murray with second-degree murder. Despite this, Attorney Ivan Bates said that he would not bring any charges against the officers. This is the first of a two-part investigation of the police shooting of Donnell Rochester. The community was outraged by the shooting of Rochester who had just turned 18 and was just beginning to chase his dreams. Baltimore Beat (June 13, 2023)

marijuana use while possessing firearm

The mother of a 6-year-old boy who shot his teacher in Virginia plead guilty in federal court Monday to using a marijuana while possessing a firearm. This is illegal under U.S. law., but this is facing greater scrutiny as more states are legalizing marijuana. The mother has taken the first steps in a negotiated plea agreement with prosecutors that call for a two-year prison sentence. The federal case against her is separate from the charges she faces on the state level. NBC News (June 12, 2023)

From the Des

in other news

New York states tried to limit writings and artistic works from prisoners, showcasing a growing issue of incarcerated rights across the country. The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision reported that it never sought to prohibit free speech or creative endeavors. The Marshall Project (June 10, 2023).

Climate change has worsened conditions for incarcerated Black people. Formerly incarcerated people say heat has always been an issue, but it is becoming unbearable. AFRO News (June 13, 2023)

A study uncovered that more people die of overdose after police seize drugs. It provides the first empirical evidence that cops seizing illicit opioids can result in an increase in overdoses. VICE News (June 15, 2023)

community board

  • Watch: Metro Atlanta nonprofit works to end generational incarceration
  • Attend: Juneteenth celebrations in the DMV
  • Attend: Law lecture on the costs and benefits of taxing incarcerated workers

nepotism in Baltimore police department, Virginia dismissing $50 million lawsuit in police shooting death

June 11, 2023: Justice from the frontlines

cozy relationship in Baltimore

The person who led the oversight of the Baltimore Police Department’s federal consent decree, Ken Thompson, is a family member of the city’s acting city solicitor. This relationship was revealed to a judge but not to the greater public. This relationship underscores complaints within the community over the independence of the people enforcing the consent decree. City officials said that Thompson and his great niece are not in violation of the ethics code. The Baltimore Banner (June 5, 2023)

dismissing $50 million lawsuit

The City of Virginia Beach asked a judge to dismiss a $50 million lawsuit filed against them by the family of Deshayla Harris. In March of 2021, officers struck and killed Harris by a stray bullet when he was a bystander of a feud. This occurred the same night that Donovan Lync was killed by Virginia Beach police officers. Two years later, Harris’ family filed a lawsuit, claiming that the city withheld evidence in the case. In response, the City of Virginia Beach filed a 21-page report to dismiss all the counts to the lawsuit. It argued that it undermines work and efforts to make an arrest.  3WTKR (June 5, 2023)

shooting in Richmond graduation

Eighteen year old Shawn Jackson and his 36-year-old father Renzo Smith were shot after Jackson had received his diploma. The Huguenot High School graduation ceremony in RIchmond, Virginia was where the shooting took place. The police arraigned Amari Pollard who had a dispute with Jackson over a year ago.Police assured the public that the shooting was not gang-related. The assistant principal recalled Jackson as a “very bright young man who could master any textbook.” AXIOS Richmond (June 6, 2023)

neighbor wins no-smoking lawsuit

D.C. Judge Ebony Scott ruled in favor of Josefa Ippolito-Shepherd who sued neighbor Thomas Cacket for smoking medical mairjuana in his apartment. Ippolito-Shephard complained about the odor of marijuana that crept in her house. Scott said that though Cackett is licensed to buy marijuana, “he does not possess a license to disrupt the full use and enjoyment of one’s land.” Scott went on to say that this decision best serves the public interest, as involuntary smokers have no choice but to inhale toxins in the air. Washington Post (June 8, 2023)

michael harrison’s departure 

Last Thursday, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrsion stepped down. This was a shock to the community. This came on the heels of the Tuesday police budget hearing. Harrison has been in this role since March 2019 and led his department through many federally mandated reforms. Gov.Wes Moore said that Harrison “took on a very, very challenging job, and he is a true man of honor and integrity.” The Baltimore Banner (June 8, 2023)

new Baltimore police leader

Richard Worley has been nominated to be the Baltimore Police lead. Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh chose Worley who was a district commander when she was a council woman.He has a reputation as a well-respected and knowledgeable officer, said many community members. The Baltimore Banner (June 8, 2023)

Virginia uses funding for gun violence

Virginia was given a $10 million grant in funding to lower the occurrence of gun crimes. The office of Attorney General Jason Miyares seeks to hire six prosecutors and violence intervention coordinators with the fund. In addition, another $5 million will be spent for hospital-based violence intervention programs. This grant was awarded through the 2023 Operation Ceasefire Grant Program, which will end in 2024. The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services laid out a report that shows how they will spend the $10 million. The Virginia Mercury  (June 5, 2023)

in other news

Children of incarcerated mothers are “falling through the cracks.” Losing a mother figure can lead to traumatic outcomes for children and their families. Black and Hispanic mothers are said to be more severely affected. WRIC (June 5, 2023)

The city of New York is over-reliant  on a tactic called “stop and frisk” in order to combat gun violence. This tactic is proving to be harmful for communities of color and is a civil rights infringement. AP News (June 5, 2023)

After Hurricane Ida, there are reports showing how pollution and climate change affected policing and incarceration. One-third of all state and federal prisons are within health-altering proximity to a federal Superfund site. Capital B (June 7, 2023)

community board

  • Support: Preserve Now seeks to give incarcerated a second chance
  • Visit: In the Ford Foundation Gallery’s show, “No Justice Without Love,” past incarcerated artist showcases themes of mass incarceration and criminal justice
  • Read: #NoKidsInPrison exhibition advocated for alternative to youth incarceration through virtual reality
  • Tweet: Students uncover identity of active shooter