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

justice from the frontlines: Mar. 13, 2023

police reform rollback

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

juvenile detention horror

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

police officer prosecution

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

families fight for justice

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

petitions skyrocket

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

execution recordings withheld

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

in other news

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

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

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

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

community board

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

justice from the frontlines: Mar. 6, 2023

Biden blocks DC reforms

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

lawmakers push school policing

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

Fairfax streamlines record expungement

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

VA parole board faces transparency

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

Baltimore intervention program succeeds

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

MD Republicans push crime measures

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

W. VA approves campus carry

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

in other news

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

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

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

community board

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

justice from the frontlines: Feb. 27, 2022

Call for more police

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

Sued for civil rights violations

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

To be heard

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

W. VA protest high number of jail deaths

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

Democratic MD Gov. to rebuild state police

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

MD Juvenile corrections under new leadership

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

in other news

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

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

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

in other news

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

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

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

community board

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

justice from the frontlines: Feb. 13, 2023

canceling solitary confinement

credit: adobe stock

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

Compassion for elder prisoners

Queens House of Detention, New York

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

MD police on shaky ground

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

Congress blocks D.C. autonomy, again

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

D.C. metro gets more police

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

W. VA tackles mental health and justice

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

in other news

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

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

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

community board

D.C. Council votes in favor of new criminal code; state senators dispute D.A. Krasner impeachment; rising crime rates weaponized against reform candidates

justice from the frontlines: Nov. 7, 2022

new D.C. criminal code passes first vote

The D.C. Council unanimously voted to rewrite the city’s criminal code, but it must pass a second vote in two weeks time that is signed by the mayor in order to take effect. The bill contains reforms such as the elimination of most mandatory minimum sentences, the allowance of trial by jury in misdemeanor cases and a reduction in maximum penalties for certain offenses such as robberies. This reform would be the first “comprehensive modernization” of the code, according to Public Safety Committee Chair Charles Allen. The Washington Post (Nov. 1, 2022)

PA senators challenge Krasner impeachment

As crime rates in Philadelphia rise, State House Republicans have moved to impeach Philadelphia’s District Attorney, Larry Krasner. Dem. State Senators pushed back against this; Senator Art Haywood said that the concerns surrounding the rise in crime can be attributed to other factors including socioeconomic conditions and the availability of guns. Other state senators such as Democrat Nikil Saval support Krasner’s anti mass incarceration policies. Go Erie (Nov. 2, 2022)

weaponized crime rates

Republicans like New York gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin blamed rising crime on reform efforts by the Democratic state legislature. Zeldin criticized incumbent Governor Kathy Hochul for neglecting to do something about the “pro-criminal laws.” In reality, these laws consist of increased prisoner rights in the parole process, reduced juvenile incarceration rates and the elimination of cash bail for misdemeanors and non violent felonies. These policies coincided with the upheaval of the pandemic and necessary reforms cannot be blamed as an isolated cause for rising crime. NPR (Nov. 3, 2022)

prisons deny hunger strike 

On Aug. 22, individuals living inside maximum security prisons organized a hunger strike to protest unsafe living conditions. Inmates are experiencing mold exposure, which is causing painful lung problems. One inmate, Leonard Jefferson, who is incarcerated in Rhode Island Maximum Security Prison, described the living conditions as “the closest thing to hell on earth.” Jefferson estimated that over half of the maximum security population took part in the strike, but the Rhode Island Department of Corrections denied this, saying “there have been no actions to indicate a hunger strike.” Incarcerated people said this lack of acknowledgement makes it hard to prompt change. The Brown Daily Herald (Nov. 1, 2022)

justice reform pays off 

In 2017, Louisiana passed a series of criminal justice reforms. Some of these reforms included the lowering of mandatory minimum sentences and the shortening of the time period during which past convictions can be used to trigger the state’s harsh habitual offender legislation. Since 2017, the state’s prison population fell dramatically, with 2021 seeing 10,000 fewer people incarcerated than in 2016. To calculate financial savings, the prison population drop each month was multiplied by a per diem rate. Ultimately, the state saved approximately $150 million from implementing the reforms. The Louisiana Weekly (Oct. 31, 2022)

New Mexico buys private prisons

At a cost of $217 million in rent over the next 20 years, the state of New Mexico has recently acquired three private prisons under the leadership of Gov. Michelle Lijan Grisham. Presently, the population of incarcerated people is trending down while rent costs are trending up. New Mexico has historically relied on private prisons, with a report from the Sentencing Project finding that 45% of inmates were held in private prisons in 2020. Advocates of state control believe that the states can more closely monitor safety conditions inside. Others believe that the prisons should have been closed altogether. Searchlight New Mexico (Nov. 3, 2022)

justice still absent

Fifty years ago, two students at Southern University were killed during a campus protest. Denver Smith, who may have tried to make sure his sister was safe and Leonard Douglas Brown, who wondered what the crowd was gathered for, were killed by a deputy with no involvement during the protest. With the 50th year anniversary approaching after the shooting, a 10-month examination by the Louisiana State University Cold Case Project, provides a much clearer picture of one of the most troubling episodes in race relations in Baton Rouge. Louisiana Illuminator (Oct. 30, 2022)

prevention program failed 

In July 2021, Advance Peace, a gun violence prevention program, was supposed to launch in New York City but after months of poor planning and miscommunication, the program has been quietly scrapped. Devon Boggan, founder of Advance Peace, received calls from reporters to comment on the plans of the launch but this was news to him. Boggan typically gets involved early when a new city wants to use his model but it’s been more than 19 months since New York Officials have made progress. The Trace (Nov. 1, 2022) 

Gun cases dismissed 

Federal prosecutors expect to drop dozens of felony gun and drug cases involving officers on a violent crime squad in the D.C. An ongoing investigation raised questions of officers credibility because officers were seizing guns without making arrests, and possibly lying on reports. Due to this, seven officers in the 7th district in D.C. have been placed on administrative leave or desk duties. Bill Miller, a U.S. attorney’s office spokesman declines to say how many cases have been dismissed. The Washington Post (Nov. 1, 2022)

sentenced to life over $14

For two decades, David Coulson spent time in jail for stealing $14. At the time of the offense, in which he took change from an unlocked garage, he was living on the streets, struggling with drug addiction and mental illness. Despite his health crisis, Coulson had no violent crimes on his record, the judge ordered that he be locked up for life, saying he could be released after 35 years. Coulson was released last month. His release was unusual but his punishment was not. The Guardian (Nov. 2, 2022) 

guilty on sexual assault charges 

Federal prison transport guard, Rogeric Hankins, pleads guilty to violating detainee’s civil rights by sexually assaulting her, in court on Tuesday. Corporation, picking up people who were arrested for out-of-state warrants and transporting them back to the jurisdiction. Hanking picked up a victim from Olympia, Washington to take her to St.Paul, Minnesota and as he was transporting her, he stopped at a gas station in Joplin, Missouri, and took her in to use the bathroom and after that Hankin led her to the men’s bathroom and told her to go to the furthest stall from the door. No sentencing has been set, though Hankins faces up to 10 years in prison. Fox News (Nov. 1, 2022)

In other news, Hae Min Lee’s family again asked the Maryland Court of Special Appeals for redo of Adnan Syed hearing;

From the Des

in other news

Hae Min Lee’s family again asked the Maryland Court of Special Appeals for redo of Adnan Syed hearing

community board

Negotiating a Criminal Justice Bill Across Party Lines 

Opinion: Plea bargaining and mass incarceration go hand in hand. We need to end both

Editorial: The empire strikes back – against progressive prosecutors 

Archives of Resistance: The movement to end police violence has a rich visual history. In Brooklyn, a collective of volunteers is doing its part to preserve it

Reshaping Our Wanting: There is a place for desire in an abolitionist world — at least when desire is pleasure and love and freedom

download: automatically record your traffic stop

attend Abolish Mandatory Reporting and Family Policing, Nov. 10

We Need a New Paradigm to Halt the Unprecedented Growth of Electronic Monitoring

Doctor charged with prison manslaughter; New Bureau of Prisons Chief promises change; Manhattan DA prosecutes domestic violence victim he ran on protecting; Texas DA supports man on death row; LA kids prison investigation finds serious sexual and physical abuse

justice from the frontlines: Oct. 31, 2022

doctor charged for death of inmate 

A San Diego doctor has been charged with involuntary manslaughter for the death of Elisa Serna, a 24-year-old woman who collapsed in prison. A nurse who walked away from Elisa after she collapsed was also charged last November. Both medical professionals face accusations of criminal negligence as they failed to perform their full duty of care. A state auditor recently published a report revealing that San Diego County jails have one of the highest death rates in California. US News (Oct. 26, 2022)

prison chief promises reform

Colette Peters, the new Chief of the federal Bureau of Prisons, has pledged to enact reforms within the agency, including changes to hiring practices, increased transparency and accountability for employees who are guilty of sexually assaulting inmates. In her former role as Oregon’s prison director, Peters oversaw a decrease in Oregon’s prison population. Peters said she looks to hire prison staff who are interested in preparing inmates for reintegration into society. AP (Oct. 24, 2022)

nonviolent offenders stuck in cycle

A new investigation from The Marshall Project reveals that the majority of repeat defendants in Cuyahoga County’s court system are not violent offenders but rather people suffering from addiction and mental illness. Police in the area refer to these defendants as “career criminals,” but the problem is more complex than meets the eye. Data revealed that less than a third of cases involving repeat offenders involved a violent offense. Advocates are calling for alternatives to incarceration, as these individuals have fallen into a cycle of recidivism that is difficult to escape. The Marshall Project (Oct. 26, 2022)

district attorney switch-up

Then-candidate for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg took to Twitter to share his support for Tracy McCarter, a victim of domestic abuse who was charged with the murder of her violent ex-husband. After winning his election in November 2021, Bragg is now prosecuting McCarter despite having the power to drop her charges. Bragg cites plea deals he has offered McCarter and attempts to reduce her charges as signs of the understanding he once demonstrated on the campaign trail, but a Color of Change petition reveals that many people are disappointed in Bragg’s lack of legal support for McCarter. Jezebel (Oct. 26, 2022)

Texas DA believes Areli Escobar is innocent

A Texas State judge ruled that the scientific evidence which led to Areli Escobar being placed on death row is not accurate. District Attorney José P. Garza, despite initially wanting to defend Escobar’s conviction, reevaluated his case. When the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals took the case, Garza urged the court to give Escobar a new trial. His plea was unsuccessful, but Garza maintains Escobar’s innocence in advance of a potential hearing of the case by the Supreme Court. The allegedly mistaken DNA evidence had been crucial to the jury’s initial decision to convict Escobar. The New York Times (Oct. 24, 2022)

police reform stalled 

More than two years after the murder of George Floyd, violent crimes continue to increase causing police reform to be stalled. In the midst of the pressure, elected officials pledged sweeping changes to how officers operate and how they’re overseen. Elizabeth Glazer, one of New York’s leading experts on criminal justice, looked into why police reform has stalled. Glazer found that there’s a kind of built-in conservatism about the importance of maintaining the police and the movement coincided with rocketing rates of increase in shootings. She also found that “defund the police,” was really a lost opportunity. It was viewed as an existential threat to police departments and could’ve been a chance to reshape their roles in a way that focused on their core strengths and to begin to give back to other professionals the responsibility to deal with the homeless and mental illness. ProPublica (Oct. 24, 2022)

drug reform and diversion on ballot

The demands of a reform group in Hays County have become focal points in the upcoming DA race and a “Reeferendum” in Central Texas. The organization Mano Amiga has helped turn this November’s elections into a referendum on both marijuana decriminalization and pretrial diversion. Activists within the organization have gathered enough signatures to put a measure on the ballot this year that would end citations and arrests for possession of up to four ounces of marijuana in the city of San Marcos. After years of pushing for this to be on the ballot, the time has finally come. Local and state police unions haven’t taken a public position on this year’s referendum to decriminalize marijuana possession but they have endorsed Puryear, the GOP nominee to replace District Attorney Wes Mau. Bolts (Oct. 21, 2022)

missing and murdered

On Oct. 22, New Mexico had a Missing in New Mexico Day event in Albuquerque which was designed to bring law enforcement face-to-face with families searching for their missing loved ones. Two mothers, Rose Yazzie and Vangie Randall-Shorty talked directly with Raul Bujanda, the FBI special agent who leads the Albuquerque field office, and they outlined not only the timeline of the investigation but significant errors they’ve viewed during the process. Yazzie told Bujanda that it took the Navajo Nation Police more than two weeks to complete a missing report for her daughter and Randall-Shorty discussed months long delays in finding out the circumstances around her son’s death. They are both seeking information about their children’s cases but want law enforcement to come up with a strategic plan to find Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives. Source NM (Oct. 24, 2022)

kids locked up and abused

An investigation into a juvenile facility that imprisons Louisiana children revealed over 60 suicide attempts in two years and over 90 escape attempts in the last three. One escaped girl hoped to be taken to a “big jail.” The escapes and suicides are a result of repeated physical violence, sexual assault and psychological torment, the investigation found. Despite years of documented failing, the state regulators have never fined or punished the facility or threatened its contracts. Local law enforcement was described as “largely dismissive” of sexual-abuse allegations. The New York Times (Oct. 30, 2022)

extension on localizing parole 

Back in July of 2020, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser asked Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton for legislation wresting control of the District’s parole system from the federal government. But today, D.C. remains in the same position with no agreement on a path forward for a new parole system. Congress had a closed-door meeting saying it would take about two years to get done. The holdup has an impact on Black D.C. residents, who data show are overrepresented in the parole system. The longer the delay, the more prison time can result for those in jail for technical violations, losing their jobs, housing and gains they may have made. The Washington Post (Oct. 25, 2022)

From the Des

in other news

police do not believe a woman once again, and another time

community board

imprisoned pregnant women may get more protection from bill; death row man killed despite mental health concerns; police to use robots armed with shotguns; B-More teens shot at high rates; LA men in prison for almost 30y found innocent

justice on the frontlines: Oct. 24, 2022

juveniles imprisoned at adult prison

Under pressure from officials, following the escape of nearly two dozen juvenile inmates from Bridge City Center for Youth in New Orleans, Governor John Bel Edwards relocated ten youths to the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Juvenile justice advocates and the transferees’ families are protesting the move, which would house minors in the same place as adult inmates on death row. State officials say the move is temporary while the Youth Center is renovated, and the youths will be kept in a separate building 1.5 miles from the rest of the penitentiary. Opponents to this move have cited the Penitentiary’s history of violence and alleged poor medical care. US News (Oct. 18, 2022)

baltimore teens shot at high rates

2022 has been a historically deadly year for teenagers in Baltimore. 71 children, the majority of whom were 16-17 year old Black males, were killed by gun violence this year. One third of the shootings took place in the Eastern District of the city. Deputy Mayor Anthony Barksdale said the city had recognized the high rates of youth shootings and is trying to find ways to prevent it. Barksdale said the presence of “ghost guns” – guns which are bought in parts on the internet and assembled at home – is contributing to the violence. Gun violence now kills more children than car accidents nationwide. The Baltimore Banner (Oct. 17, 2022)

inmates now a protected class

The Atlanta City Council has voted to include former inmates as a protected class of people. The decision means that former inmates cannot be denied opportunities for employment or housing on the basis of their incarceration. Bridgette Simpson, co-founder of a nonprofit that helps convicted people reintegrate into society, said that one in eight people in Georgia are impacted by the justice system and may fall into this protected class. The ordinance is predicted to lower recidivism rates throughout the city. Atlanta News First (Oct. 17, 2022)

deaf man killed in jail

A deaf man named Javarick Gantt was killed inside the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center. Gantt was arrested without bail on a warrant for violating probation, a decision which his friend Anthony Taylor did not understand. Taylor and Gantt’s mother expressed concerns about the way Gantt was housed with other inmates. Kirsten Poston, president of the Maryland Association of the Deaf, questioned the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services’ (DPSCS) compliance with a court settlement outlining proper accommodations for people who are deaf. DPSCS Intelligence and Investigative Division detectives are currently undergoing both criminal and administrative investigations into Gantt’s death. The Baltimore Banner (Oct. 19, 2022)

avoiding records for the rich

Court diversion programs offer defendants the opportunity to avoid a criminal record through various forms of restitution, including community service acts. However, this more appealing option comes at a high cost: literally and metaphorically. Courts set high fees for diversion programs, meaning wealthier defendants can avoid a record where others may not be able to. Diversion programs mean that justice systems cater differently to those in different financial situations. Advocates such as Joanna Weiss, co-director of the Fines and Fees Justice Center, believes diversion should be free. NPR (Oct. 17, 2022)

protecting pregnant women in jail 

A bipartisan senate bill introduced by Democrat Amy Klobuchar and Republican Susan Collins layouts improved care for incarcerated pregnant and postpartum women and their babies. If this act – called the Protecting the Health and Wellness of Babies and Pregnant Women in Custody Act – is passed, federal facilities would be mandated to provide access to medical and mental health services in addition to education for women in regards to parental rights as well as physical needs like lactation consultation. Under the act, pregnant women would not be placed in solitary confinement in their last trimester. Dr. Carolyn Sufrin said the bill could replace varied state standards with one national standard of care. 19th News (Oct. 17, 2022)

injustice delivered

On Wednesday, three Louisiana men incarcerated for over 28 years were found wrongfully convicted of murder. Bernell Juluke, Kunta Gable and Leroy Nelson were originally found guilty of the second-degree murder of Rondell Santinac in 1996, who died from a drive-by shooting. Newly uncovered evidence linked the original police investigation to an officer who was found guilty of murder conspiracy and endemic corruption. Prosecutors unveiled additional evidence of innocence, involving the credibility and testimony of the lone eyewitness to the shooting. Officers Len Davis and Sammie Williams were the first officers present at the scene of the shooting two minutes after the shooting and before any of the officers dispatched by 911 operators arrived. This made the court believe that they were following a pattern where they covered up for drug dealers they provided protection for. The Guardian (Oct. 20, 2022)

competency questioned, still executed

The state of Oklahoma executed Benjamin Cole, who was sentence to death for murdering his young daughter. His case caused a debate over if he should’ve been executed or not due to battling from schizophrenia and being severely mentally ill. His attorney said his mental illness led him to kill his daughter. Oklahoma state law makes it illegal to execute someone found to be insane. Cole was the second death row inmate put to death in a series of more than two dozen executions scheduled in the state of Oklahoma. CNN (Oct. 20, 2022) 

colon cancer kills incarcerated man

The Office of Inspector General for the Justice Department is launching an investigation for the death of Frederick Bardell. Bardell was convicted in 2012 of downloading child pornography from a shared website and sentenced to 151 months in federal prison. While in prison Bardell died due to colon cancer. In 2020 and 2021, Bardell filed a motion for compassionate release arguing he had advanced from cancer but his motion was denied by U.S. District Judge Roy Dalton. The government opposed Bardell’s motion arguing that it was not definitive that Bardell had cancer. Reason (Oct. 17, 2022) 

armed robots to be used as lethal shotguns 

pregnant inmate

Oakland police officers have been pushing and advocating for language that will allow robots to kill robots under certain emergency circumstances. The Oakland Police Department is in discussions over the authorized robot use policy. Some observers say the plan for robots to be armed contradicts itself because, “it’s billed as a de-escalation facilitator, but they want to keep it open as a potential lethal weapon.” Lt. Omar Daza-Quiroz, who represents the department, says they are still having conversations and doing more research. The department assurance that a shotgun-toting robot would be subject to departmental use-of-force policy did not satisfy critics. The concern is that police would be rolled out and robots would take over when police decided to use lethal force. The Intercept (Oct. 17, 2022)

mishandling nitrogen hypoxia documents

The Alabama Department of Corrections was slammed by the federal judge for mishandling an execution. Alabama wanted to execute convicted murderer Willie B. Smith III, but Smith’s attorney had filed a challenge claiming that Smith, who’s intellectually disabled was not provided a required explanation to opt out of the nitrogen hypoxia – a paper form distributed to all death row inmates at Holman Prison. The form distributed wasn’t an official Alabama Department of Corrections form and due to that they weren’t required to follow ADA guidelines. Alabama Political Reporter (Oct. 19, 2022) 

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Biden cannabis pardons free no one in Feds for Cannabis crime; FBI reports inaccurate crime statistics; NYPD illegally sends innocent people to Rikers; man remains in prison for 30+ years despite evidence of innocence; reformist Alex Friedmann sentenced to prison for guns stored in walls

justice from the frontlines: Oct. 10, 2022

AL inmates continue historical strike

Despite a Department of Justice investigation and multiple years of litigation, people incarcerated in Alabama are striking statewide against inhumane prison conditions including poor medical care, violence, retaliation, dilapidated prison living conditions and low staff. The Governor called their demands “unreasonable.” She has refused to work with the DOJ to improve the prisons and instead courted private prison companies for new facility contracts as a solution. Strikers are facing reported retaliation and starvation HuffPost (Oct. 7, 2022)

POTUS pot pardon frees no one from prison

Biden has pardoned approximately 6,500 people convicted of “simple” cannabis possession, a low level offense that excludes the trafficking or sale of marijuana. This includes currently in federal prison. Most people are incarcerated on distribution and other charges as well as possession. Biden has urged state officials to follow his lead. Biden cited the disproportionate rate at which Black and brown people are arrested, prosecuted, and convicted for marijuana use, calling the convictions “needless barriers.” The Guardian (Oct. 6, 2022)

FBI arrest data incomplete and inaccurate

A million-dollar crime statistics reporting system known as NIBRS (National Incident-Based Reporting System) produced a data set for 2021 that was fragmented and inconsistent with reports of drug-related crime rates nationwide. The FBI released multiple documents through its “Crime Data Explorer,” each listing a conflicting number of drug/narcotics offenses. The data was provided by only 19 states who transitioned to the system fully, and 31 other states who have not yet completed a full transition. Marijuana Moment (Oct. 5, 2022)

tribal courts power increased to charge non-Natives

Congress has passed a new law that allows tribal courts to file more charges, including sexual abuse, trafficking, stalking and obstruction of justice, against non-Native defendants. This expansion of jurisdiction empowers 31 tribal nations to address violence against women and children on tribal land. The law was included as a section of the Violence Against Women Act. Previously, tribal courts only had jurisdiction over non-Natives who committed acts of domestic violence. The Oklahoman (Oct. 3, 2022) 

ACLU against E-carceration

People undergoing pretrial proceedings, probation, parole, or immigration proceedings are all commonly monitored electronically through a GPS. In a new report, the American Civil Liberties Union is calling for this to end. Co-author of the report Ayomikun Idowu called the electronic monitoring “e-carceration.” The GPS system tracks people’s whereabouts and prevents movement more than a few hours from the wearer’s home. The ACLU said that going to work or seeing family can be impossible. If a person fails to comply, they can be imprisoned. The Davis Vanguard (Oct. 3, 2022) 

missing search warrants

Mississippi state rules mandate that no-knock search warrants are returned to courts to be accessible to the public. However, many are not available, leaving victims of no-knock warrants in the dark. Almost two-thirds of Mississippi county courts prevent public access to search warrants. Some search warrants, however, never left the police station. These documents are protected by a public records exemption that benefits law enforcement agencies. Breonna Taylor was killed when police entered her home armed with a no-knock warrant, inspiring nationwide scrutiny of the policy. However in many cases, this scrutiny raises questions that remain unanswered without lack of access to official documentation.  ProPublica (Oct. 4, 2022) 

illegal detention at Rikers

A lawsuit filed by four people currently detained on Rikers Island says that the New York City Police Department and Department of Correction has been taking people straight to Rikers Island without bringing them to court, violating state law. NYPD detained Paul Philips, and several others in similar situations, on the basis of an old open bench warrant, which is typically issued when someone does not turn up to court. However, the warrant was no longer open, a fact which was made known to the NYPD. Despite this, Philip and his co-plaintiffs were detained illegally on Rikers Island. Hellgate NYC (Oct. 4, 2022) 

solitary confinement suit settled

Prison reform advocate Alex Friedmann has settled a lawsuit he brought against the Tennessee Department of Correction after being placed in solitary confinement despite not having received a conviction. Friedmann was placed in a solitary cell walled with steel plates under a ‘safekeeper’ order which allows pretrial inmates to be detained in state prisons. The terms of the settlement mean that prison officials will individually assess safekeeper inmates, who will be allowed to participate in hearings to determine where they will be kept. Both safekeeper and regular inmates can appeal a decision to be kept in solitary confinement. The Toronto Star (Oct. 3, 2022) 

reformist sentenced to prison

Alex Friedmann, who just earlier this week settled a solitary confinement lawsuit with the Tennessee Department of Correction, has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for vandalism. Friedmann, a criminal justice advocate, was found guilty of vandalizing Davidson County Jail, causing $250,000 worth of damage. Friedmann planted guns in the jail, claiming a gang rap in jail earlier had led him to do so to protect himself. Friedmann has a history of advocating for prison reform. News Channel 5 (Oct. 6, 2022) 

Minnesota DOC violates ADA

The US Department of Justice found that the Minnesota Department of Corrections has violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by denying the right of incarcerated disabled individuals to enroll in General Educational Development (GED) program opportunities or to apply for modifications. The DOJ has asked that the Minnesota DOC resolve this civil rights violation by notifying inmates about the reasonable modifications available to them and allowing them to apply for and receive modifications for GED courses and exams. The Department of Justice (Oct. 3, 2022) 

solitary confinement reform ignored

A new solitary confinement reform called the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act was meant to create therapeutic “residential rehabilitation units (RRUs)” in prisons. Under the Halt Act, these units would allow prisons to place inmates in a humane space as an alternative to standard solitary confinement. However, state prisons are neglecting to uphold the standard for RRUs set in the HALT Act. Instead, inmates have been cuffed, chained, and shackled whilst inside the “therapeutic” rooms. New York Focus (Oct. 5, 2022) 

innocent man imprisoned

In 1991, an intellectually disabled man Charlie Vaughn confessed and pleaded guilty to the murder of Myrtle Holmes. In 1995, Vaughn, illiterate himself, had a fellow inmate write a letter to a federal courthouse on his behalf, requesting to be released from custody. He made his request on the basis that he had not received proper legal representation and was wrongfully convicted of murder. Vaughn’s petition was dismissed. In 2015, evidence surfaced that linked another suspect to the murder, but not Vaughn or two others who had been jointly convicted for the same crime. These two men were freed; Vaughn was not. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act says that prisoners only have one chance to be federally reviewed. Vaughn’s 1995 letter meant that he had used up his one chance and remains imprisoned today. Radley Balko (Oct. 5, 2022) 

city pays for killing by police

Daniel Prude was killed in Rochester New York by police officers who placed a hood on his head and pressed it into the pavement. The killing, which took place in March of 2020, sparked protests throughout the community. Prude’s family filed a lawsuit against the city of Rochester, who settled the suit for $12 million. The settlement means that the city does not admit liability for Prude’s death, but the Prude family’s lawyer told The New York Times that he hoped the case would lead to further investigations into police brutality. The New York Times (Oct. 6, 2022) 

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