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. This weekly roundup pulls from across the internet to find the best and most interesting stories about treatment courts, juvenile justice, public defense, the right to counsel, and big news in the criminal justice world.
Drug Treatment Courts
Officials say law enforcement, faith, education, health care all must be part of opioid crisis solution – Franklin County Sheriff Don Jones calls the opioid addiction a public health crisis — one that has to be addressed. “We can’t solve this by ourselves. We are working as hard as we can,” Jones said. Zanotti said his office is working with judges and public defenders to create an opioid diversion program. They currently have 10 open files they are considering for the program. They also offer a similar program geared toward veterans called Veterans Drug Court. It gives offenders who are veterans a chance to complete treatment before going to court, with a payoff of reduced or dismissed charges. “The goal is that the person gets better, and because of that, does not get the normal punishment as in a traditional court setting,” Zannotti explained. (The Southern Illinoisan, IL, 3/11/18).
New Jersey Drug Treatment Centers Page Now Available – Substance abuse news provider The Recover has a finished a localized directory for drug treatment facilities in local areas. The addiction and recovery news site has finished building its New Jersey Paterson page which now adds to the 60 city based pages for the residents of the Garden State to find answers to their questions regarding local statistics, and treatment for their addictions. The New Jersey Drug Court system has been one of the tools the state has utilized to combat the drug rise in the state. Benefits of the NJDC has helped criminals with addiction issues learn to overcome their dependencies with treatment and support meetings. (The Recover, CA, 3/9/18).
Arkansas Works to Overhaul Juvenile Justice System – Judges and youth advocates say Arkansas’ patchwork juvenile probation system needs an overhaul to treat children in the system more fairly. Efforts are underway in at least 18 of the state’s 75 counties to improve probation and the overall juvenile justice system. The goal is to reduce the number of children in detention and to keep them out of court, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. Judges in some of those counties now use probation to connect youth with community services instead of punishment. The changes were prompted by the Arkansas Supreme Court Commission on Children, Youth and Families. (U.S. News and World Report, AR, 3/12/18).
L.A. County Introduces ‘Lighter Touch’ for Juvenile Offenders – Los Angeles County—the birthplace of heavy-handed police tactics like S.W.A.T. teams, helicopter patrols and gang injunctions—is embarking on an effort that could make the nation’s most populous county a model for using a lighter touch with juvenile offenders. Late last year, the LA County Board of Supervisors approved a sweeping plan that will make diversion the centerpiece of the county’s juvenile justice system, and could in the long run, all but end the practice of arresting and prosecuting youth under 18, except for the most serious crimes. (The Crime Report, CA, 3/8/18).
Lawmakers Consider Raising Age Limit for IL Juvenile Justice – If you’re under 21 and have been convicted of a crime, you might wind up serving time in the juvenile justice system instead of an adult jail. Illinois state lawmakers are considering a measure that would raise the system’s age limit from 18 to no more than 20. If it becomes law, the age limit would be steadily increased over the next two years, and would only apply to misdemeanor offenses. Prosecutors could still seek transfer of the case to adult court, and a judge could decide if adult prison is warranted on a case-by-case basis. (NPR Illinois, IL, 3/7/18).
Greene County judge to create domestic violence court – Not long after Greene County judge Calvin Holden sentenced a man with a history of domestic violence to prison, Holden announced he is creating a program specifically for perpetrators of domestic violence and their victims. Holden said his domestic violence court will be run similar to other Greene County treatment courts like drug and DWI courts, which are intended to divert offenders from incarceration and lower the recidivism rate. Holden said he also plans to use the court to encourage victims of domestic violence and their children to get into counseling, especially when they are choosing to stay with the abuser. (Springfield News-Leader, MO, 3/12/18).
Privatization of Public Defenders Could Help Fix the Underfunded System – State lawmakers are looking for new solutions to resolve problems surrounding the Missouri Public Defender system, including turning over a large portion of the cases to private attorneys. While funding for public defenders has increased over the years, it hasn’t quite kept up with the number of cases. have increasing 16 percent in the last two years. “if we are not well funded, then people sit in jail longer than they need to be and that causes a significant cost for the county,” Barrett said. In February, a bill was submitted to the Missouri House of Representatives calling for 90 percent of all public defender cases to be transferred to private attorneys, however that piece of legislation is still under review. (KQ2.com, MO, 3/12/18).
ACLU sues Glynn County, officials over cash bail – The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit Friday morning accusing Glynn County, Sheriff Neal Jump, Magistrate Judge Alex Atwood and attorney Reid Zeh for the parts they play in what the group alleges is “an unconstitutional cash bail system that discriminates against people who are financially strapped.” In all, the county, Atwood and Jump are alleged, by administering the cash bond procedure, to have violated the 14th Amendment regarding equal protection and due process, and the county and Zeh are accused of violating indigent misdemeanor arrestees’ 6th Amendment right to counsel and equal protection through counsel. (The Brunswick News, GA, 3/10/18).
Lawmakers add funding for public defenders – The Alaska House Finance Committee has approved funding four additional lawyers to work in the Public Defender Agency. They approved the money at a meeting on Monday. Anchorage independent Rep. Jason Grenn sponsored the amendment to provide $1 million to pay for the four lawyers and one support staff member. He noted that public defenders at the agency have too many cases according to state and national standards. (KTOO Public Media, AK, 3/7/18).
Report offers insight into State Attorney’s office – The Office of the State Attorney for the 4th Judicial Circuit’s 119 assistant state attorneys and 209 investigators and staff members filed 34,964 cases in 2017. Those were among the statistics compiled in a 34-page report of the office’s activities. Nelson cites the office’s “more thoughtful approaches to our pursuit of justice” since she took office in January 2017, such as increased use of alternative treatment courts. The report indicates referrals to Adult Drug Court were up 78 percent in 2017 compared to 2016; referrals to Teen Drug Court increased by 51 percent; Mental Health Court referrals increased by 10 percent; and referral to Veterans Treatment Court was up 9 percent. (Jax Daily Record, FL, 3/9/18).
Currie pushes for mental health courts — Brookhaven lawmaker wants to model on successful drug court system – A Brookhaven lawmaker wants to create a new statewide court system that would offer defendants with mental illnesses a path toward healing, not toward prison. Currie claims the creation of a statewide mental health court would be modeled almost identically on the existing drug courts and would cost around $3 million to implement. She said the cost is “absolutely nothing” compared to the long-term savings she expects the state will enjoy by keeping mental health patients out of correctional facilities, where the state becomes responsible for providing healthcare. (The Daily Leader, MS, 3/8/18).
Benjamin Marchman is a student assistant in the Justice Programs Office.