Every day we are bombarded with news and information on our feeds, social media accounts, on television, and in our email inboxes. It can be hard to decide between all of our obligations what is truly newsworthy and what is just noise. We hope to make it easier for you by introducing JPO’s weekly news roundup!
This weekly roundup will pull from across the internet to find the best and most interesting stories about treatment courts, juvenile justice, indigent defense, the right to counsel, and big news in the criminal justice world. Check back every Friday for the latest news roundup.
Drug Treatment Courts
In State of the Judiciary Speech, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore Tackles Opioid Addiction, Homelessness and Case Backlogs – In her State of the Judiciary speech Tuesday, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore set in motion new procedures to treat opioid addiction, reduce homelessness and move cases more quickly through the court system. Touting the success of the Buffalo Opioid Intervention Court, which had only one death among its 204 participants, she announced a statewide opioid initiative. While there won’t necessarily be opioid courts in every county, Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks said such courts would likely be created in “counties where the problem justifies a distinct court and approach. The analysis underway will determine that.” (New York Law Journal, NY, 2/6/18).
Manitowoc County Circuit Court judge candidates talk drug court, community safety – While there were some disagreements, all five candidates for Manitowoc County Circuit Court judge recognized the value of the new drug court program and talked about the need for leadership in the county’s judicial branch. “What we have been doing is not working,” he added. “The amount of people who have been incarcerated in this country is substantial. We need new and innovative approaches, such as the drug court.” (Herald Times Reporter, WI, 2/2/18).
From addict to counselor: Drug court aids woman’s recovery – Chelsea Carter’s path to recovery from addiction started and ended with her standing before the same West Virginia judge. A decade ago, the same judge ordered her to attend a drug court instead of sending her to prison. She underwent addiction counseling and successfully completed the court’s requirements. Now 30, Carter accomplished that and much more. She earned a psychology degree from West Virginia State University, then a master’s in social work from Concord University. She currently is the program manager and an addiction counselor at Ohio Valley Physicians in Logan. (ABC News, WV, 1/31/18).
Kokomo drug court judge says services could end – A Howard County drug court judge says some of the county’s most successful programs that deal with drug offenders could soon disappear if more staff isn’t hired to handle an ever-increasing caseload. Judge Menges said if the county wants to continue the success of the programs, it has to be willing to spend the money to do so. Wyman counters that it’s about using tax money wisely. (Fox 59 News, FL, 1/31/18).
Veterans Treatment Courts
Bills moving through Ind. House to help veterans, human trafficking victims – Two potentially impactful bills are moving through the Indiana State House. One would help human trafficking victims and the other would help veterans who find themselves in trouble with the law. The second bill would help veterans in trouble with the justice system get the mental health treatment and support they need. It would be a collaborative effort to make sure veterans in trouble would be directed to a veterans’ treatment court. That specialized court closely monitors veterans who might need treatment for mental health or alcohol and substance abuse. (WHAS 11 News, IN, 1/31/18).
He stole $5 and a bottle of cologne. His bail was set at $350,000 – The case of a San Francisco senior citizen accused of stealing $5 and a bottle of cologne from his neighbor reveals the obvious injustice of California’s bail system, and may finally lead to reform. San Francisco is ground zero for the state’s battle over bail. Since October, the city’s public defenders have challenged bail amounts in virtually every criminal case, demanding that judges hold hearings to consider alternatives to incarceration and inquiries into their clients’ financial circumstances. They have found a sympathetic audience in the state’s appellate court judges, who have ruled that only an immediate threat to the public justifies setting unreachable bail amounts. (LA Times, CA, 2/5/18).
Cuomo proposes $50.7 million to counties toward indigent defense in year one of plan – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has proposed $50.7 million to counties across the state as part of a five-year plan to help pay the costs of indigent defense. The five-year plan, known as the Justice Equality Act, will cost the state an estimated $250 million a year, once fully implemented, to cover programs such as counsel at first appearance, upstate caseload relief, quality improvements, and similar efforts. (Watertown Daily Times, NY, 2/4/18).
The L.A. County supervisor’s pick for interim head of the public defender’s office faces criticism – Last week, the Los Angeles County board of supervisors unanimously voted to approve Nicole Davis Tinkham as the interim head of the public defender’s office, amidst criticism that she doesn’t have the experience necessary for the job. Critics of the appointment, including the ACLU of Southern California, have said that Tinkham has no experience in criminal law and had in the past defended law enforcement officers. A protest against the appointment will be held on Feb. 12 at the Criminal Courts Building in Downtown L.A. (89.3 KPCC, CA, 2/1/18).
Are public defenders good enough? Cumberland County family has its doubts – The image Doug and Mary have of Deven now is his Cumberland County Prison mugshot. He was convicted of killing his infant daughter and sentenced to 22 to 45 years in prison. “It’s not that they didn’t do their job. It’s just that they’re so overworked they just wanted to get through it and I think that’s not right,” Doug said, adding that there were questions about the baby’s health prior to its death that were not fully investigated or explored at trial. There were also no witnesses and Deven is steadfastly denying wrongdoing. (ABC 27 News, PA, 2/1/18).
Fitchburg panel discusses roots of inequality – The main lounge was packed Thursday evening for a discussion on injustice and inequality in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., by a diverse panel that included students, faculty and professionals, many of whom said they experienced injustice in their own lives based on the color of their skin. “Indigent defense is today’s civil rights movement,” Ms. Thibault-Munoz said. “I am constantly thinking about the rights and human dignity of my clients. The majority of my clients are all the poorest, may likely have substance abuse and mental health problems, and the majority haven’t graduated from high school.” (Telegram.com, MA, 2/1/18).
Proposed budget cuts to Office of Juvenile Justice blasted – In a budget proposal outlined by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards on January 22, there were $994 million of state cuts. These include what Morrell called “significant” cuts to the OJJ. “Youth who are included in the juvenile system are less likely to re-offend because the system is better suited to meet the unique needs of adolescents,” Morrell wrote. (The Louisiana Weekly, LA, 2/5/18).
California court expands reach of limits on juvenile charges – The California Supreme Court on Thursday expanded the scope of a ballot measure that limits prosecutors from charging juveniles with crimes in adult court. The court ruled unanimously that Proposition 57 applies to cases that were pending before it took effect. The justices said voters appeared to want to extend the measure as broadly as possible. Proposition 57, approved in 2016, requires judges instead of prosecutors to decide whether criminal cases belong in juvenile or adult court. (SF Chronicle, CA, 2/1/18).
Governor appoints former Texas Ranger as new juvenile justice watchdog amid agency shake-up – A former Texas Ranger is set to take over as independent watchdog for Texas juvenile prisons, a shift the governor announced Wednesday amid an agency shake-up on the heels of a sex abuse scandal. Scott Henson, policy director with the non-profit Just Liberty, said the surprise ouster “sends a bad message.” “They got rid of someone who was doing a good job and had exposed a lot of problems that needed to be exposed – and I hope this new person will as well – but I think it was a mistake to reward her for her good work by getting rid of her,” he said. (Chron, TX, 1/31/18).
General Criminal Justice News
Ohio AG ‘encouraged’ after start of opioid lawsuit talks – U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland has been assigned to oversee what many plaintiffs hope will be a global settlement with the pharmaceutical industry that would also encompass lawsuits filed in state courts. Comparisons are being made to the 1998 lawsuit settlement against tobacco companies that resulted in an agreement to pay $206 billion to 46 states over a 25-year period. Beshear and DeWine said massive amounts of money are needed to deal with an epidemic that is costing their states billions of dollars a year. They said money is needed to pay for drug treatment and education and to buttress social service and law enforcement agencies serving on the front lines of the epidemic. (ABC News, OH, 1/31/18).
Benjamin Marchman is a student assistant in the Justice Programs Office.