Maryland’s youth justice system faces potential reform as offense rates rise, the attorney general and public defender of Maryland went on a barbershop tour in hopes to lower mass incarceration rates.

justice from the frontlines: Sept. 17, 2023

Barbershop tour tackles mass incarceration

In Maryland, Anthony Brown, the attorney general, and Natasha Dartigue, the public defender, took part in a historic barbershop tour in Baltimore to discuss issues concerning mass incarceration. They spoke with the community, discussed workable alternatives, and acknowledged the need for investments in community assistance and education to lower crime and taxpayer expenses. This community-wide initiative was viewed as a step in the right direction toward encouraging change and understanding. CBS Baltimore (Sep. 9, 2023)

D.C.’s safety dilemma

Residents of D.C., who have seen an increase in violent crime over the past year, are now dealing with more fears about their safety. Even while the city’s reputation for crime has improved since the 1990s, recent increases in homicides, shootings and carjackings have made people feel uneasy, even in neighborhoods not typically known for high crime rates. Residents are forced to deal with a new reality where safety is becoming an increasing concern in different communities, despite efforts by local leaders and the police to address the problem. The Washington Post (Sep. 11, 2023)

License battle unveils discriminatory bias

The Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) and the restaurant’s neighbors presented Chef James Robinson, owner of KitchenCray in H Street, D.C., with several obstacles that ultimately forced him to close his restaurant in August. Robinson argues that despite the ANC’s assurances to the contrary, its actions were racially discriminatory and disproportionately targeted Black-owned businesses like his. DCist (Sep. 11, 2023)

Rethinking Maryland’s youth justice

In the face of a rise in youth-related offenses, Maryland officials are at a crossroads and debating the need for improvements in the juvenile justice system. Although requests for reform have been sparked by a few high-profile events, the state has steadily moved toward a more rehabilitative strategy. The course of these reforms is still changing due to a new governor, a new secretary of juvenile services and continuous discussions among politicians. The Baltimore Banner (Sep. 12, 2023)

Ward 8 community crime walk

D.C. residents joined police in a call for action for public safety during a crime walk in Ward 8, an area experiencing a sharp rise in murders and violent crime. Acting MPD Chief Pamela Smith mandated these walks in all police districts to build community relationships. Ward 8 has seen 74 homicides, nearly double other wards, and violent crime is up 30%, prompting efforts to increase police-community interactions and address concerns about officers’ accessibility. ABC 7 News (Sep. 12, 2023)

Peltier rally ending in mass arrests

In Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, 35 people were arrested and cited during a planned demonstration near the White House calling for the release of Leonard Peltier from federal prison. The event, organized near Lafayette Square, saw hundreds of supporters advocating for Peltier’s release on his 79th birthday. Peltier, who has been incarcerated for nearly 50 years, was convicted of the murder of two FBI officers in 1975. The rally aimed to increase awareness and pressure President Biden for Executive Clemency. Native News Online (Sep. 12, 2023)

Change needed in the prison system

The Federal Bureau of Prisons’ director, Colette Peters, spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee in D.C. about her initiatives to improve the suffering prison system. She stressed the value of responsibility and dedication in achieving agency reform. Concerns regarding transgender inmates, sexual assaults, solitary confinement, prenatal care for prisoners, drug control and drone-related difficulties in federal prisons were among the themes highlighted during the session. Iowa Capital Dispatch (Sep. 13, 2023)

in other news

Body cams tell all. A Philadelphia police officer, Mark Dial, has been charged with first-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and other offenses after fatally shooting 27-year-old Eddie Irizarry. His death was initially described as a result of a car chase and knife confrontation. However, body camera footage revealed a different account, showing Irizarry still inside his car when shot. The incident ignited community anger and protests, with Dial released on $500,000 bail. The case is the fourth since 2018 where Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner has charged a police officer involved in an on-duty shooting. The New York Times(Sep. 8, 2023)

Marsy’s Law used in disgrace. Ta’Kiya Young, a 21-year-old pregnant Black woman, lost her life in late August when an Ohio police officer shot through the window of her car after she resisted commands during a shoplifting accusation. Surprisingly, due to the treatment of the police officers engaged in the incident as victims under Marsy’s Law, a law designed to protect crime victims, neither Young nor her unborn child are currently regarded as victims of a crime. Advocates for civil liberties claim that this approach, which is becoming more prevalent in several states, including Ohio, inhibits transparency and accountability in situations of police use of force. The Marshall Project (Sep. 9, 2023)

Unlawful Memphis police tactics. When Memphis police stopped Maurice Vaughn in 2018 when he was parked in his brother-in-law’s driveway, his life took a catastrophic turn. He was found to be driving on a suspended license. Vaughn spent nearly a year in jail, lost his job, and had to move out of his house because of subsequent events, including an unlawful search that ended in a felony charge of gun possession. This case shows concerns about aggressive enforcement techniques and has attracted attention from the U.S. Department of Justice amid continuing investigations into police conduct. The Marshall Project (Sep. 12, 2023)

Praised Boston police forces. In the midst of ongoing concerns about disruptive teen mobs in Boston, the city’s police response has drawn praise. Recent incidents, including downtown melees, were quelled using de-escalation tactics instead of forceful measures, marking a significant shift from previous confrontations with protesters. This approach, emphasizing professionalism and restraint, serves as a potential model for police reform efforts nationwide, aiming to rebuild trust within communities and maintain consistency in law enforcement practices. Boston Globe (Sep. 8, 2023)

Parents charged in children’s overdoses. Parents Madison Bernard and Evan Frostick are facing murder charges after their toddler overdosed on fentanyl in California. While California prosecutors use drunk driving statutes to hold parents responsible for their children’s fentanyl-related fatalities, several states have passed “drug-induced homicide” legislation to pursue drug dealers. The argument is falls on whether or not these parents, who are motivated by addiction, should be viewed as criminals or as needing assistance and rehabilitation. AP News (Sep. 8, 2023)

Puppy held for ransom. After an incident in which Irvine police said they saved a pit bull puppy from a fentanyl overdose, the owner, Caleb Gibson, has been cleared to regain custody of his dog. However, he now faces a daunting bill of over $2,000 for the animal’s care, leading him to describe the situation as his puppy being “held for ransom.” Despite preliminary tests showing no drugs in the puppy’s system, the case remains under investigation, and Gibson is left with the challenge of covering the unexpected costs while striving to rebuild his life. Los Angeles Times (Sep. 14, 2023)

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Baltimore jail healthcare conditions are at a low; new Maryland appellate court decision bans people from applying for expungement who haven’t finished probation

justice from the frontlines: Sept. 10, 2023

Redemption put to halt

Following an altercation between roommates Kenneil Cole and Keon Wallace in 2018, their families’ lives were tragically turned upside down. Cole, who was formerly seen as a community leader overcoming a difficult past, was charged with the murder of roommate Wallace. After a court battle, the case was dismissed in February 2023 on Cole’s claims of self-defense. The futures of both men are in shambles as Cole works to mend his reputation despite the fact that the charges against him were dropped, while Wallace’s family is still unsatisfied with the outcome of the case. The Washington Post (Sep. 3, 2023)

Baltimore jail medical legal battle

In order to defend the Baltimore jail healthcare system, the Maryland Office of the Attorney General has taken a more assertive legal approach. They have recruited the outside law firm Butler Snow LLP, which is run by William Lunsford, a former state prison defense lawyer. The ACLU’s National Prison Project objected to this decision, alleging that the state is undermining the medical monitor in charge of ensuring compliance with a 2016 settlement meant to improve medical conditions in Baltimore jails. This has led to questions about how seriously the state is taking the agreement’s requirements overall. The Baltimore Banner (Sep. 5 2023)

Debate over youth rights in Baltimore

Maryland’s Child Interrogation Project Act, which requires that minor defendants have an attorney explain their Miranda rights before interrogation, is being scrutinized because Baltimore Police officers routinely broke it. The statute is intended to protect children from possible coercion and false confessions, but prosecutors claim it obstructs criminal investigations, sparking a heated dispute among local legal professionals and politicians. The Baltimore Sun (Sep. 6, 2023)

D.C. curfew backlash

There has been a 39% increase in violent crime in D.C., which has led to the adoption of a juvenile curfew in some areas. The action attempts to reduce youth involvement in high-profile violent incidents, but opinions on its efficacy are divided. There are worries about how it may affect at-risk youth. Local groups like TRAPP Stars push for more thorough strategies to shield the city’s youngsters from the ongoing violence, including community programming and enhanced safety measures. CBC News (Sep. 2, 2023)

D.C. possible solitary confinement ban

A campaign to outlaw the use of solitary confinement in the D.C. Jail and other local Department of Corrections institutions has been reintroduced by D.C. Councilmember Brianne Nadeau. The ERASE (Eliminating Restrictive and Segregated Enclosures) Solitary Confinement Act of 2023 would outlaw all types of isolation, with the exception of short-term measures to prevent suicide or for medical reasons. In order to alleviate the negative impacts of this practice, the legislation also requires increased resident out-of-cell time, mental health assistance during extended incarceration and transparency in reporting solitary confinement use. DCist (Sep. 6, 2023)

Punishment beyond release

According to a recent Maryland appellate court decision, people who have not successfully finished their probation cannot apply for expungement, leaving many people like Carlos Battle, a reformed former offender, in an uncertain position. The subject of when one’s punishment genuinely ends and whether they ought to be judged by their past is raised by supporters of the ruling, who claim that it goes against the spirit of rehabilitation and prevents people from moving on with their lives after serving their terms. The Baltimore Banner (Sep. 6, 2023)

Crime surge in D.C.

In a recent wave of violence, there have been seven homicides in Washington, D.C., all of which were caused by gunshot wounds. The most recent occurrence took place in the Washington Highlands area, increasing the year’s overall number of homicides by 29% when compared to the same time last year. To combat the rise in violence, local authorities have put in place a number of measures, such as tighter pretrial detention and curfew enforcement. But these methods have not slowed any of the violence or crime. The Washington Post (Sep. 4, 2023)

in other news

Other states can learn from Cali. The ongoing discussion about solitary confinement in California is an extension of a larger national issue. Even though there have been previous attempts to restrict its usage, recent events, including California Governor Gavin Newsom’s veto of a bill that met international standards, demonstrate the difficulties in changing this practice. The national discussion over the effects of solitary confinement on convicts’ mental health and its potential for abuse continues to boil as other states struggle with related challenges. The Marshall Project (Sep. 2, 2023)

Federal prison guards get away with rape. In a disturbing tale of institutional failure and abuse, federal prison guards at FCC Coleman in Florida admitted to repeatedly raping incarcerated women, yet escaped prosecution due to a little-known Supreme Court precedent. Despite the Senate’s investigation and damning evidence, a culture of corruption within the prison system shielded these guards. The women’s fight for justice continues, highlighting the urgent need for prison reform and accountability within the system. Reason (Sep. 2023)

Small American towns suffer police scarcity. Small towns across America are experiencing a scarcity of police officers, which has been made worse by the pandemic’s negative effects on morale and the increased public scrutiny of law enforcement in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. As a result, several communities dissolved their police forces and now depend on the county sheriff or adjacent communities for law enforcement assistance. Communities around the country are facing a variety of difficulties as a result of the departure of experienced officers and the dearth of new recruits willing to go through the necessary training, especially those unable to compete with the pay and incentives provided by larger towns. AP News (Sep. 5, 2023)

Healthcare restrictions in WV. West Virginia’s new law, Senate Bill 1009, restricts state funds for incarcerated individuals’ healthcare, raising concerns about inadequate medical care in prisons and potential legal challenges. Critics fear the law may limit crucial services like gender-affirming care and contraception while leaving “medically necessary” open to interpretation by state officials rather than healthcare professionals. Bolts (Sep. 6, 2023)

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73-year-old woman’s death in VA jail highlights lack of proper medical attention; Maryland is planning to reform juvenile justice in the system

justice from the frontlines: Sept. 3, 2023

Questionable death in Arlington County jail

Abonesh Woldegeorges, a 73-year-old woman, passed away after being discovered unresponsive in an Arlington County jail cell where she was being held on trespassing charges. Her cause of death is still unknown. The Arlington County jail has seen eight deaths ever, and this one took place while run by Sheriff Jose Quiroz who took over for Beth Arthur after she was criticized for earlier deaths. The Arlington NAACP has expressed concern about how inmates who require medical attention are handled by the jail. The Washington Post (Aug. 27, 2023)

Return of prosecuting petty crimes

Baltimore resident Dallis Glover was issued a citation in June for carrying an open container of alcohol. The prosecutor presented him with a deal when he appeared in court in August: complete five hours of community service, and the charge would be dismissed. Resuming prosecution for minor offenses like public intoxication, according to critics, may result in pointless arrests and unfairly target marginalized communities. They also raise concerns about the logistical difficulties vulnerable people may encounter in attending court. Governing (Aug. 25, 2023)

Maryland juvenile justice reform

There have been calls for changes to the juvenile justice laws in Maryland as a result of the rise in juvenile involvement in the criminal justice system. However, Senator Jill Carter wants to make filing Child in Need of Supervision (CINS) petitions mandatory during the upcoming legislative session to address the issue and improve education about the resources available for all stakeholders involved with young offenders. Some law enforcement agencies and prosecutors are pushing for amendments to bring more accountability to young offenders. Fox Baltimore (Aug. 28, 2023)

D.C. youth violence initiatives

With 13 children killed in the city this year, youth violence in Washington, D.C. continues to be a serious problem. City officials announced a pilot program of increased curfew enforcement in some neighborhoods beginning Sept. 1 as part of their efforts to address the problem as violent youth crimes have increased by 38% this year. However, some residents, like Leola Smith, think that more extensive measures are required to combat the violence, which has an effect on both communities and businesses. Fox 5 D.C.  (Aug. 28, 2023)

Exonerees support Adnan Syed

Adnan Syed, whose case gained notoriety through the “Serial” podcast, has received support from over 70 wrongfully convicted individuals from across the United States. As Syed’s case moves forward in the appeals process, they filed a brief with Maryland’s highest court highlighting the shortcomings in the criminal justice system and the difficulties exonerees face after being freed. This raised issues regarding victims’ rights and potential repercussions for criminal justice reform initiatives. AP News (Aug. 28, 2023)

Police failures during mass shooting

The D.C. Jail.

Prior to a mass shooting at a Brooklyn Day block party in Baltimore, a 100-page report issued by the Baltimore Police Department stated that a police district commander gave officers instructions to watch the crowd as it grew but not to get involved out of concern that they would become targets. The research reveals that a number of reasons, including supervisory indifference and poor management, contributed to the insufficient police reaction to the incident, which resulted in two deaths and 28 injuries, and indicates a lack of readiness and interaction with citizens in specific regions of the city. Police are beginning to discipline staff after the incident to re-evaluate the system.  The Baltimore Banner (Aug. 30, 2023)

D.C. teen prosecuted as adult

In connection with armed robberies and carjackings, 16-year-old Zakyh Samuel has been prosecuted as an adult in Washington, D.C. This reflects the U.S. attorney’s office’s new policy of evaluating more cases involving 16- and 17-year-olds for adult prosecution in situations of numerous crimes. In connection with a number of carjackings and robberies, Samuel is accused of armed robbery, armed carjacking, and handgun possession during a violent crime. The Washington Post (Sept. 1, 2023)

Baltimore’s inadequate citations

Baltimore’s plan to resume police enforcement of “quality-of-life” offenses has run into problems. In the first two months, officers issued 50 citations, 47 of which were identified as insufficient and never made it to the court docket. City council members broadly support the program’s philosophy despite their reservations about the program’s mechanics, while they have voiced concerns about biased enforcement and the absence of comprehensive demographic information on contacts. The Baltimore Banner (Aug. 30, 2023)


Mayor Bowser Reminds Residents that the Juvenile Curfew Enforcement Pilot Begins on September 1

Washington, DC Will Pay $5.1 Million For Arresting Gun Owners

D.C.’s Efforts to Take Back Control of Parole from the Feds Are ’As Good as Dead‘

in other news

Jacksonville hate crime Three Black individuals were killed by a White shooter who opened fire at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida on Saturday before turning the gun on himself, according to local law enforcement, who also described the crime as racially motivated. Vice President Harris launched a civil rights investigation into the shooting while highlighting the “epidemic of hate” in the country. The FBI’s Jacksonville branch is looking into the shooting as a hate crime. The Washington Post (Aug. 27, 2023)

Deceiving patterns in the LAPD Federal prosecutors and the FBI’s civil rights division have launched their own inquiries into a LAPD gang unit accused of failing to record their actions during traffic stops after LAPD internal affairs detectives searched officers’ lockers and discovered a pattern of misconduct involving the Mission Division Gang Enforcement Detail. There are worries about the deterioration of public confidence and transparency within the department as a result of the officers’ apparent failure to properly record detentions and actions taken during traffic stops. The Los Angeles Times (Aug. 25, 2023)

Woman gives birth in jail After seeking medical aid more than an hour before giving birth, a pregnant woman at the Montgomery County Jail in Tennessee was forced to give birth by herself in her cell, raising questions and prompting inquiries into the situation. Although an internal investigation has been undertaken, authorities have not publicly revealed why the woman was not transferred to a hospital before giving delivery. It is still unclear whether anyone will face disciplinary action. The Washington Post (Aug, 31, 2023)

Man with mental illness shot by police After being tragically shot by police, the family of Andrew Jerome Washington, a mentally ill resident of Jersey City, is looking for answers. The family had phoned the Jersey City Medical Center Crisis Center for aid, but cops showed up instead, starting a dispute that resulted in Washington being shot and murdered. Pix 11 (Aug. 27, 2023)

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Death of 10 dogs highlights D.C. 911 response issues; Ward 8 gets a new community center; Baltimore wants a returning citizens office

justice from the frontlines: Aug. 27, 2023

Delayed response at doggy daycare

Emergency services took longer than expected to arrive at a doggy daycare in D.C., during a flash flood that took the lives of 10 dogs. Despite urgent calls describing the hazardous situation, dispatchers first classified it as a “water leak”, delaying the initial response. Responders didn’t arrive at the facility for about 30 minutes following the call. Owners of the dog-victims are outraged at D.C.’s mayor and the public safety communications center. The Washington Post | Twitter (Aug. 21, 2023)

Virtual learning as discipline

Baltimore County Public Schools came under fire for putting children in disciplinary action in their virtual learning program, which resulted in lower grades and decreased engagement. Critics suggest that virtual learning is the wrong strategy for students who are facing disciplinary action because it lacks the in-person assistance they require, negatively impacts their academic performance and potentially pushes them to enter the criminal justice system. The Baltimore Sun (Aug. 22, 2023)

Baltimore’s recidivism reduction initiative

The Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (MONSE), led by Baltimore Mayor Scott, has put forward legislation to create an Office of Returning Citizens. In order to lower recidivism rates and address the issues faced by formerly incarcerated Baltimore residents, this office will coordinate programs and support networks for those individuals reentering society. Approximately 2,000 people return from prison each year in the city. CBS Baltimore (Aug. 21, 2023)

Crime-fighting recreation center

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

In an effort to counteract rising crime rates, particularly among young people, Ward 8 residents and city officials in D.C. are celebrating the construction of the neighborhood’s first recreation facility in 20 years. The center is regarded as a crucial tool for giving young residents alternatives to crime and offering the neighborhood a secure, enjoyable area to hang out. DC News Now (Aug. 21, 2023)

D.C. officer shoots man

Following a report of a possible domestic incident with a gun in an apartment, a D.C. police officer shot a man who had reportedly fired numerous shots during an attempt to communicate with officers. According to Acting D.C. Police Chief Pamela A. Smith, the event illustrates the dangers of bringing firearms into domestic situations because the man, who is in serious condition, shot at police before being injured himself. The Washington Post (Aug. 17, 2023)

DNA evidence exonerates?

The D.C. Jail.

The Innocence Project of New York and other lawyers have backed Dontae Spivey in his fight for acquittal after he served nearly 25 years in prison for a murder in Baltimore that he says he did not commit. Spivey was excluded as the donor to DNA samples obtained from a sweatshirt and hat found at the crime scene, according to new DNA evidence that was previously kept hidden during his 1999 trial. This could potentially call into question Spivey’s original conviction. The Baltimore Banner (Aug. 25, 2023)

DMV retail theft concerns

The future of grocery stores and residents’ access to fresh produce in impacted communities are at risk due to rising retail theft and shoplifting concerns in D.C. and Fairfax County, VA. Although local authorities have been contacted about the issue raised by D.C. Councilman Trayon White, it is still unclear what exactly will be done to stop stealing and theft from the community. ABC 7 News (Aug. 23, 2023)

in other news

Body cameras in exchange for raises Police unions have called for salary increases for officers who wear body cameras in a number of American cities. While others contend that these cameras ought to be standard equipment, unions have used the argument that wearing cameras comes with more responsibility and a loss of privacy to push for higher pay. The New York Times (Aug. 20, 2023)

Tallest NYC jail sparks controversy Resident’s in NYC’s Chinatown, which has historically served as a center for immigrant workers, are worried about the effects of the controversial construction of a tall jail next to a nearby business. The project will affect the neighborhood’s disadvantaged immigrants and businesses, according to critics, including local landlords and activists, who disagree with the city’s assertion that the new jail is a crucial step toward closing the notorious Riker’s Island. The Guardian (Aug. 21, 2023)

Utah’s criminal reform Rep. Burgess Owens spoke as the keynote speaker at the Right on Crime employer engagement forum about the value of creating a culture of possibilities and second chances for people who have served time in prison. In particular at the municipal level in Utah, he emphasized the need for empathy and inventiveness in criminal justice reform. Deseret News (Aug. 24, 2023)

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Baltimore cops are spending too much time in their cars; D.C. pilots youth curfew in response to rising crime

justice from the frontlines: Aug. 20, 2023

Judge holds finding that insurance company discriminated

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against the Maryland Insurance Administration brought by Erie Insurance that claimed discriminatory treatment of Black brokers in Baltimore. Following the administration’s discovery of unfair practices such as criminal background checks and refusal to insure those with “city-sounding names”, the court’s ruling means that Erie Insurance will handle the claims through a state administrative procedure. The Baltimore Banner (Aug. 15, 2023)

Cops spending more time in cars

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

According to a recent report made as part of its legally required consent decree, the Baltimore Police Department continues to struggle to gain the trust of locals through community policing initiatives. Despite training efforts, the department remains hindered by officers spending more time on calls and in cars than they do in neighborhoods. The Baltimore Banner (Aug. 15, 2023)

Postponed prosecution

After prosecutors requested a delay because an assistant state’s attorney was ill, allegations of political scheming led to the dismissal and subsequent reindictment of Draquan Smith’s murder trial in Baltimore. The case highlights issues with staffing shortages and the difficulties in ensuring consistency in prosecutions. The Baltimore Banner (Aug. 15, 2023)

11-year-old arrested in assault and robberies

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

The release of thorough stop-and-search data by the Baltimore Police Department, as required by a court consent decree, has been significantly delayed despite promises of reform which worries experts and advocates. The lack of progress has led to concerns about transparency and leadership, which has a negative impact on how well the decree’s goals are being achieved and how well policy changes are being evaluated. The Baltimore Banner (Aug. 14, 2023)

Advancing justice

The Maryland Office of the State Fire Marshal is facing allegations of engaging in racial discrimination, and a court has decided that the action can proceed. The lawsuit argues that there is a racist culture in the department and makes charges of harassment, verbal abuse, and bullying. The judge found sufficient evidence to support some of the claims. WTOP News (Aug. 17, 2023) 

D.C. starts curfew for youth

The D.C. Jail.

Along with city officials and acting chief Pamela Smith, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser unveiled updates on the city’s crime strategy. These included a pilot program to address the shortage of police officers by providing referral bonuses, increased CCTV surveillance, and a Juvenile Curfew Enforcement program in particular areas. The revelation comes as the city experiences an increase in crime rates and fear of youth safety. ABC 7 News | DCist (Aug. 17, 2023)

Violence on firefighters

Myisha Richards, a firefighter in D.C., comes out about the brutal assault she experienced while attending to a call, bringing attention to the rise in violence experienced by EMTs and firefighters. Attacks and their effects on mental health spur initiatives to offer assistance, de-escalation training, and greater readiness for potentially hazardous circumstances. NBC 4 Washington (Aug. 16, 2023)

in other news

The Marion County Record newspaper in Kansas was raided by local police, infuriating those that support press freedom and journalism. The raid, which was the result of an argument between the newspaper and an owner of a nearby restaurant, is viewed as a serious violation of press freedom rights. Advocates raise concerns about the impact on journalism and demand law enforcement be transparent and accountable. KCUR 89.3 | NPR (Aug. 14, 2023)

The increasing rate of homicides and gun violence against Black women in Iowa brings light to underlying problems and inequality. Despite being a small, largely rural state, Iowa experienced a startling rise in the number of Black women killed in 2020; the issue was made worse by socioeconomic inequalities, easy access to firearms, and underinvestment in Black communities. Activists and advocates for this cause are working to bring about change by promoting violence prevention initiatives. The Guardian (Aug. 15, 2023)

Families of victims and death row inmates are working together in Louisiana to support individuals who are on death row. In accordance with the state’s “pro-life” principles, they are pleading with the state to reduce death sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Gov. John Bel Edwards supports the clemency request and the overall effort illustrates the range of feelings surrounding the debate on the death penalty. (Aug. 15, 2023)

Alarming proof that Florida prison officials and medical personnel let an incarcerated person’s prostate cancer go untreated, leading to eventual paralysis, a terminal condition, and extensive bed sores, has been revealed as a result of a civil rights issue. Elmer Williams, a former incarcerated individual, claims that the refusal of medical care was a punishment, casting light on the overall problem of medical neglect in the prison system. Reason (Aug. 15, 2023)

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D.C. council member calls for national guard in response to most violent week in 2023. Baltimore rap producer Whiteboy killed in shooting. Youth summit to prevent violence held in D.C. 

justice from the frontlines: Aug. 14, 2023

Popular Baltimore rap producer Whiteboy was killed in a shooting at the beginning of August. He was a cornerstone producer for most of Baltimore’s top rappers, including YG Teck, OTR Chaz, Roddy Rackzz and 448 RIQ. Police are still investigating the incident, but they believe that Whiteboy was targeted. The Baltimore Banner (Aug. 4, 2023)

The Baltimore Police Department (BPD) has been under a consent decree since 2017 after the U.S. Department of Justice found that the department engaged in a pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing. As part of the consent decree, BPD is required to collect and release data on its stops and searches, but a new report from the monitoring team overseeing the consent decree found that BPD’s data collection and reporting on stops and searches is still not adequate. The Baltimore Banner (Aug. 14, 2023)

Juvenile crime in Washington, D.C. has been on the rise. In response, a summit was held in Southeast D.C. to engage young people in finding solutions. The summit called on young people to help remedy juvenile crime by speaking out against violence and participating in community programs. WTOP (Aug. 13, 2023)

DC has seen a surge in gun violence this summer, with August being the deadliest month so far. The city has recorded 17 homicides in August, bringing the total number of killings in 2023 to 97. Police and community leaders are working to address the issue, but they say more needs to be done to prevent gun violence. DCist (Aug. 8, 2023)

DC Councilmember Trayon White is calling for more action to address gun violence in the city, after a recent spike in homicides. White met with DC Police Chief Robert Contee to discuss the issue, and is calling for more resources to be dedicated to preventing gun violence. White also wants to see more investment in programs that help children stay safe, such as after-school programs and mentorship programs. WJLA (Aug. 8, 2023)

The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) is facing a staffing crisis. In order to address this crisis, MPD is implementing a number of new recruitment initiatives. These initiatives include increasing pay and benefits, offering signing bonuses, and waiving some hiring requirements. The MPD is currently about 1,000 officers short of its authorized strength of 4,000 officers. DC Crime Facts (Aug. 11, 2023)

Pamela A. Smith, the new acting chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, says it will take a “whole-of-community” approach to fight crime in Washington, D.C. Smith has pledged to focus on increasing police presence in high-crime areas, building trust with the community, and addressing the root causes of crime. She faces a daunting task, as D.C. has seen a significant increase in violent crime in recent years. Washington Post (Aug. 8, 2023)

Treating addiction inside

California has the highest rate of drug addiction among incarcerated people in the country. An estimated 70% of people in state prisons have a substance use disorder. In response to this crisis, the state is expanding access to addiction treatment in prisons. This includes providing medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction, as well as counseling and other services. Expanding access to addiction treatment is an important step in addressing the opioid crisis and reducing recidivism. MAT has been shown to be effective in reducing opioid use and overdose deaths. Additionally, treatment can help people address the underlying causes of their addiction, which can make it less likely that they will re-offend after they are released from prison. New York Times (Aug. 10, 2023)

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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)

community board

  • 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