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

Maryland police unable to use smell of weed to stop people anymore; Virginia prison phone calls get more affordable

justice from the frontlines: June 4, 2023

officer impersonation

Maryland State Police issued a warning, alerting the public that impersonators are making phone calls acting like officers. MPS received reports that callers claimed to be state troopers or officers, asking for any donations or for support in a police investigation. In a few phone calls, the names of registered officers were used to gain trust. Anyone who has received one of these phone calls has been urged to reach out to the local police department or file an online complaint. In addition, the MPS has provided guidelines for what to do in the case that someone receives a suspicious call. DC News Now (June 2, 2023)

45 days for assaulting teen

Former Prince George’s County police officer was sentenced to 45 days in jail, after choking and punching 17-year-old Kayvon Hines. Officer Darryl Wormuth was charged with second-degree assault and misconduct for choking and throat-punching a handcuffed Hines. Since the assault, Hines said that he is terrified to go out and is “glad that we got justice, that [the officer] knows how it feels to be in handcuffs and how it feels to be arrested.” Wormuth has been suspended without pay for the past two years. Channel 4 Washington (May 31, 2023)

affordable phone calls in prison

The Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act passed in 2022 began regulating the costs of calls for incarcerated individuals. The cost of a call was brought down 12-14 cents per minute but only for interstate calls. The FCC will begin to look for other technologies as well that will allow prisoners to communicate more with their families. This law made great impact for families in Virginia. Paulettra James of Woodbridge, Virginia says that it has allowed her to cut costs of talking to her son.  A15-minute phone call in Virginia was as high as $4.20.  Marketplace (May 31, 2023)

Two shot in Alexandria

Two were shot in Alexandria, Virginia this Wednesday around 8:20 p.m., off of Van Dorn Street by I-395. The two victims were taken to the hospital with non life-threatening injuries. However, their ages have not been confirmed. At least one of the nearby houses was struck by gunfire.. Police officers are looking for any suspects who left the scene in a car, but they have no description of the shooter. Channel 4 Washington (May 31, 2023)

no charges for violent officer

There have been no charges filed against the Dunbar, West Virginia police officer who have been accused of slamming a man’s head to the pavement which led to his death. In Michael Scott Jr. ‘s death certificate, the coroner referred to his death as a homicide and attributed it to “blunt force injuries of the head.” The Kanawha County Prosecutor’s Office said that they oversaw the case’s camera footage and autopsy, yet they have taken no further steps. The lawyer representing Scott’s family called the footage tragic and inhumane. 13 News (May 30, 2023)

child arrests in D.C.

Last Sunday, police in D.C. arrested an 11-year-old boy and charged him with robbery while armed, assault with a dangerous weapon and robbery fear.  Earlier in May, a 12-year-old boy was charged with six counts of carjacking. The month before a 14-year-old girl was charged with robbery and armed carjacking. The community is heartbroken to see yet another child engage in crimes. Co-founder of Mute the Violence D.C, Derrick Lewis, spoke out that this is a pattern of younger and younger kids  engaging in increasingly serious crimes. A few experts attributed this pattern to an over-exposure to negativity and deteriorating mental health. DC News Now (May 31, 2023)

Cannabis laws in Maryland

House Bill 1071 passed in Maryland this past week. Police will no longer be allowed to pull over drivers because of the smell of marijuana. The law will serve to put an end to officers racial profiling drivers. However, there are worries that the new law will lead to greater gun violence, given that 75% of guns confiscated by Montgomery County law enforcement  came from searches  started due to the smell of pot. The ACLU spoken out against these claims, supporting the bill. In a statement to 7News, the ACLU celebrated the bill, given that “claims by police have been routinely used to infringe on individual’s privacy rights and justify racial profiling.” ABC 7News (May 31, 2023)

in other news

ending incarceration for girls:

Four California counties– Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, and Imperial– will be given funds to work towards ending the incarceration of girls and gender-expansive youth. In the first year of the initiative, the counties will each be given $125,000 for research and local efforts. If their efforts are successful, they will be given two-year grants of up to $750,000. The Imprint (May 31, 2023) 

tiktok showcases inhumane prisons: Bernard Jemison, an incarcerated man at Ventress correctional facility in Clayton, Alabama, posted numerous TikTok videos showcasing the conditions in prison. Videos with fellow prisoners reveal ailments ranging from untreated psoriasis infections, untreated surgery complications, broken ribs, and chronic untreated pain. Alabama has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world and sixth highest in the country The state has faced lawsuits against its treatment towards prisoners. However, the state has only built new facilities in response to their rising prison issues. The Guardian (May 26, 2023) 

45 words in traffic stops: Virginia Tech researchers uncovered that the first 45 words police use during a traffic stop decide whether the situation with the driver will escalate. If the officer starts off with a command rather than a reason, researchers believe that drivers can be in a “life or death” incident. The study similarly uncovered that Black men could often tell how a traffic stop would play out within the first 30 seconds of an encounter with an officer. The researchers observed 557 audio recordings and transcripts taken by police officer body cameras in a “medium-sized, racially diverse city.” They narrowed their research to Black drivers, after seeing that less than 1-percent of escalated stops involved a non-Black driver.  Study Finds (May 30, 2023)

lying officer gets out of 44 tickets: Chicago Officer Jeffrey Kriv has gotten out of 44 tickets by lying to judges that his ex-girlfriend stole his car. This “girlfriend alibi” began in 1996, and since then, he has had at least 92 misconduct complaints, according to city and police disciplinary records. Around 28% of these complaints against Kriv have evidence and merit. Kriv has been investigated at least 26 times over allegations of dishonesty as a police officer, which included claims of falsifying records, writing unwarranted tickets, performing improper searches, and making false arrests. ProRepublica (June 3, 2023)

These survivors rooted out sexual abuse in federal prison. Now they face deportation. (The Appeal)

community board

  • NCORE conference: The National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education or NCORE Conference is tackling the rising issue of incarceration. Wednesday’s keynote speaker Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, shared that areas have banned job interviewers from asking about any prior convictions and the great strides taken by prison abolitionists. To Alexander, the radically reformed justice system will take more courage than was needed in the Civil Rights Era. Diverse Education (June 1, 2023)
  • indiana women’s prison history project: The Indiana Women’s Prison History Project is working to showcase the shortcomings of police records. “Who Would Believe a Prisoner?” is a scholarly work that critiques prisons and the carceral state. To the authors, a “nonviolent woman-run correctional facility serving women is imaginary.”  Kauffman and her students observed hundreds of omitted and suppressed records and files of abuse. The Project has showcased and researched the proof that violence and abuse persist in prisons where all guards are women. The New Yorker (May 22, 2023)

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

justice from the frontlines:

May 22, 2023

Tougher Sentences and Limited Early Release

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

Congress Blocks D.C. Police Reform Bill

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

Mom charged in court room outburst

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

Shipley Hill Police Shooting

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

Aim for Change: Stricter Gun Laws

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

Baltimore Students Speak Out

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

Privacy vs. Security

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

Fairfax County Police Reform

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

Understaffed and Overlooked

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

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Police Accountability and Child Welfare

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


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

Black Victims and Families Disproportionately Denied Support

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

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

justice from the frontlines: May 15, 2023

D.C homicides surge to a decade-high

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

Change in D.C. pretrial detention laws

MPD police in DC.

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

Children behind bars

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

‘Characteristics of an Armed Person’

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

Lengthening lockdown

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

$2.4 Million for active shooter response training

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

W. VA closes legal gap on stalking crimes

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

Study group for developmental patients

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

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

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

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

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

justice from the frontlines: May 8, 2023

DC crime lab’s independence at risk

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

Auto theft epidemic

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

Judge’s conflict of interest

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

New detection measures

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

Red Flag Law funding in limbo

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

Program helps veterans navigate criminal justice system

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

Federal assault

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

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US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar demands action

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

Lethal Injection Controversy

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

Reform advocates form “End the Trial Penalty Coalition”

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

Understaffed and overworked

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

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

justice from the frontlines: May 1, 2023

D.C. Jail Residents Denied Life-Saving Care

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

VA’s Only Private Prison Future Uncertain

MPD police in DC.

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

From Postponements to Prolonged Incarceration

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

Beyond Hidden Cameras, Allegations Multiply

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

Eight Years After Freddie Gray’s Death

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

Adnan Syed Appeals Conviction

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

in other news

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

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

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

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

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

justice from the frontlines: April 24, 2023

More shooting victims in Baltimore

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

House attempts to block DC police reform

MPD police in DC.

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

Baltimore officer charged with assault in arrest

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

transgender women sues Baltimore jail system for prison rights.

Lawsuit filed for the poor treatment of transgender people in MD

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

Grand jury refuses do indict

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

Good time credits in VA go to court

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

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

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

MD prisons severely understaffed

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

in other news

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

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

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

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