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.
Criminal Justice News
President Donald J. Trump’s Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand – ADDRESSING THE DRIVING FORCES OF THE OPIOID CRISIS: President Donald J. Trump’s Initiative to Stop Opioids Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand will confront the driving forces behind the opioid crisis. President Trump’s Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse will address factors fueling the opioid crisis, including over-prescription, illicit drug supplies, and insufficient access to evidence-based treatment, primary prevention, and recovery support services. The President’s Opioid Initiative will: reduce drug demand through education, awareness, and preventing over-prescription, cut off the flow of illicit drugs across our borders and within communities, and save lives now by expanding opportunities for proven treatments for opioid and other drug addictions. (White House, D.C., 3/19/18).
New York Opioid Litigation Won’t Be Stayed; Lawyers Seeking 1,000 More County-Plaintiffs – A New York judge has refused to stay lawsuits by a number of New York counties against opioid manufacturers and distributors, rejecting arguments that the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t yet determined whether narcotic painkillers are unnecessarily dangerous – a central question in any litigation. The plaintiffs argue manufacturers used a variety of tactics, including misleading marketing materials and highly paid physician-influencers, to convince prescribing physicians their products were safe for treating chronic pain when, in fact, they were highly addictive. (Forbes, NY, 3/15/18).
House Approves $85 Million for Prison Improvements – Alabama lawmakers on Tuesday approved an $85 million increase for the state’s prison system as they try to comply with a federal court order to improve mental health care for inmates. The House of Representatives approved $30 million for the Department of Corrections before September and a $55 million boost in next year’s general fund budget. Nearly $5 million will go toward purchasing a private prison in Perry County. (U.S. News and World Report, AL, 3/13/18).
Drug Treatment Courts
State lawmakers consider creating opioid intervention court – State lawmakers in Hartford are in early talks about creating an opioid intervention court that would primarily try to treat and track addicts. It would assign opioid addicts to teams that would get them intensive treatment and track them with ankle monitors. Connecticut has two drug courts, in New Haven and Danielson, which focus on all types of drug cases, not just opioids. The idea faces opposition from the state court system, which says it already provides alternatives in drug cases, and at least one group that advocates for addicts. (News 12 Connecticut, CT, 3/19/18).
Drugs courts: Justice system that aims to rehabilitate – A new pilot project to introduce American-style ‘drug courts’ to Northern Ireland is being developed. They are courts aimed at keeping drug users out of prison and getting them into treatment.A senior American judge is in Belfast to advise local judges, politicians and others working in the criminal justice system about how they operate.Gregory Jackson was appointed to the District of Columbia Superior Court in 2005 by then President George W Bush.His work is mostly in ‘drug courts’, first introduced in the US in 1989. (BBC News, UK, 3/16/18).
Juvenile Drug Court Resumes Services After Loss Of Funding – After a loss of grant funding for an important youth program, local officials have teamed up to ensure that young people battling drug problems still get the help that they need. The Hill County Juvenile Drug Court Program began its official operation March 1, after approval of the Hill County Juvenile Board. The program is designed to provide substance abuse services in the community while providing oversight by the court to ensure compliance. It is available to any juvenile under court supervision or referred to the court for a substance abuse-related case or use. (Hillboro Reporter, TX, 3/19/18).
Juvenile drug court takes shape in Cabell County – A year and a half after Circuit Court Judge Gregory Howard was elected on his platform of restarting Cabell County’s juvenile drug court, the program was approved by the West Virginia Supreme Court. Spears hopes to start the program by June 1 with at least six to eight participants. Eventually he hopes the number will grow to 20, which Howard said would make it one of the largest programs in the state, like the adult program. (The Huntington Herald-Dispatch, WV, 3/18/18).
County ups funding for problem-solving court programs – The Marion County Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved a plan Tuesday to increase the amount of funding that problem-solving court programs receive from the county’s general revenue fund. An additional $150,665 will be directed toward Marion County’s DUI, Veterans Treatment, Mental Health, Felony Drug and Misdemeanor Drug courts to cover operating expenses. The programs were already budgeted to receive $317,498, according to the fiscal year 2017-18 budget. (The Ocala Star Banner, FL, 3/21/18).
Indigent Defendants Denied Counsel, Speedy Trials in 10 Counties – Mississippians accused of felonies who cannot afford their own representation have the right to counsel and a speedy trial under the 6th Amendment, but a new report found that access to adequate representation across 10 Mississippi counties is lacking and far from consistent. The report found that the state has no way of ensuring that local counties and governments are guaranteeing effective representation for indigent Mississippians accused in felony cases in the trial courts. Often, judges select inexperienced attorneys to represent these defendants, the report found. (Jackson Free Press, MS, 3/19/18).
Public defender’s office finds Maryland courts should expand pretrial options – Maryland judges need more alternatives to pretrial detention, even as courts have successfully reduced their reliance on cash bail, according to a study published last week by the Maryland Office of the Public Defender. Based on the data gathered in the court observation project, the Office of the Public Defender recommends providing judges with more alternatives to detention that ensure defendants show up in court and creating metrics for better assessing the risk of releasing defendants. “Observers generally felt that too many people were held without bail, but were sympathetic to the lack of options available to judges,” the report reads. Observers also thought the review hearing, which lasted on average 6.3 minutes, did not give judges enough time to properly assess how much of a flight risk defendants pose. (The Frederick New-Post, MD, 3/19/18).
Need a public defender? Getting one might become more difficult in South Carolina – Criminal defendants in South Carolina could face stricter requirements when applying for a public defender under a bill proposed by two York County Republicans. It would mandate that screenings for indigency, a person’s lack of ability to pay, be done by the S.C. Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services — an agency that has never done such work. Screenings include checks on income, employment and assets such as property, cash and stocks. But the proposal would add a lengthy list of required proof such as years of public assistance payments and tax forms. (The Post and Courier, SC, 3/17/18).
Filibuster kills bill to give every juvenile offender the right to attorney – Since Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks arrived in the state Legislature in 2015, she’s been working to ensure juvenile offenders across Nebraska are represented by attorneys. She succeeded in 2016 in passing a law that provides attorneys for all juvenile offenders in Lancaster, Douglas and Sarpy counties. Youths can consult with an attorney even if they’re considering waiving the right to an attorney.Her quest to take that right statewide died Wednesday when she couldn’t get 33 votes to stop a filibuster of the bill (LB158). She came up two votes short with a 31-8 vote on the cloture motion, with four senators present not voting and six excused for the day. Groene said he fought the bill because he favored parental and individual rights. ( Lincoln Journal Star, NE, 3/14/18).
People In Jail Before Trial Risk Losing Jobs, Kids. This SMU Student Wants To Bail Them Out – When people are arrested and can’t afford to bail themselves out, they can sit in jail for days or even weeks awaiting trial. That may cost them their house, job or kids. A 21-year-old SMU student is trying to level the playing field by starting a bail fund of his own. Dallas County’s Chief Public Defender, Lynn Richardson, says waiting out an arrest in jail can cost someone more than a job. “If they have children and they’re single parents and they don’t have family that can come and take those kids, there’s a possibility they could lose their kids,” she said. (Kera News, TX, 3/13/18).
A Native American Tribe is using Traditional Culture to Fight Addiction – A year and half ago, Gabe Stewart stood in tribal court pleading guilty to felony charges because he stole money from his family to support his opioid addiction. In January, his community honored him for overcoming addiction and watched as his case was dismissed entirely. Recognizing that issues with substance abuse in native communities often arise from intergenerational trauma, the Penobscot Nation attempts to reacquaint criminal drug offenders with tribal traditions and cultural practices to help them make a full recovery. (Vice News, NY, 3/15/18).
Benjamin Marchman is a student assistant in the Justice Programs Office.