New York Governor Andrew Cuomo promises to sign an executive order allowing parolees the right to vote, Connecticut becomes the first state to close all of its youth prisons, and San Diego attorney Steve Binder is recognized as “Community Hero” for the creation of Homeless Court Program in 1989. Read these stories and more below in the latest edition of the Friday News Roundup.
Criminal Justice News
New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo vows to sign executive order giving parolees in his state the right to vote – New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said Wednesday that he would sign an executive order granting all parolees in his state the right to vote, vowing to take unilateral action after the Republican-led Senate rejected the proposal. Cuomo also made the pledge on Twitter, saying the executive order would be issued later Wednesday. “It is unconscionable to deny voting rights to New Yorkers who have re-entered society,” he said. (The Washington Post, D.C., 4/18/18).
Philly’s House of Correction, a ‘dungeon,’ to close by 2020 – Just a few years ago, Philadelphia officials were planning to spend millions of dollars on a new prison to replace the oldest city-run facility on State Road, the crumbling, 91-year-old House of Correction. Now, amid a concerted effort to shrink the city jail population by one-third over three years, they intend to simply close the prison instead. The reduced jail incarceration rate was achieved through reforms including faster case processing, reduced reliance on money bail, and expanded diversionary courts, Municipal Court President Judge Marsha Neifeld said. (The Inquirer, PA, 4/18/18).
U.S. needs to back opioid talk with stronger action, former governors say – Solving the opioid crisis will require a sustained and comprehensive approach that includes ample resources both for treatment and for combating stigmas against those addicted, a group of former governors said in a Harvard forum. Beshear said that the nation is taking a “shotgun approach” to a problem that instead needs a concerted and long-term strategy. The group urged a stronger focus on treatment and related services, citing stigma against people with addiction as a major hindrance to achieving that goal. (The Harvard Gazette, MA, 4/16/18).
House approves bill to fight opioid addiction – The Missouri House has voted to take more steps toward fighting opioid addiction with a focus on shifting the response to addiction from law enforcement and incarceration to treatment availability. The main provision of the bill would create the “Improved Access to Treatment for Opioid Addictions” Program (IATOA). It would use assistant physicians – a position created by legislation passed in 2014 – to work in a collaborative way with licensed doctors to provide addiction treatment throughout the state. (Daily Journal Online, MO, 4/14/18).
Opioid trials to begin in 2019 as settlement is also pushed – A federal judge with an audacious plan to settle hundreds of lawsuits filed by local governments against the drug industry over the destruction wrought by prescription opioid painkillers has altered his course. Cleveland-based Judge Dan Polster issued an order Wednesday scheduling three Ohio trials for 2019 — a shift from his earlier plan to try to work out settlements without also preparing for trials. Getting there could be even more complicated than the landmark $206 billion settlement in 1998 between four companies and attorneys general for 46 states and territories. In the federal case, nearly 500 local government entities are also suing. Defendants include drugmakers, distribution companies and companies that manage pharmacy benefits for most Americans. (ABC News, NJ, 4/12/18).
Drug Treatment Courts
Lake County Jail, courts advance use of new addiction treatment program – Lake County officials are advancing a new treatment program through the jail to combat the opioid epidemic. The Lake County Jail and court system have started implementing a drug treatment program for people addicted to opioids and alcohol to help aid recidivism and treat the growing epidemic in Northwest Indiana. Martinez said the county is trying to look at the epidemic from multiple angles – increased enforcement, educating community members about prevention and looking at prevention programs. Cantrell said she’s eventually planning to start a drug court in Lake County, modeled on the veterans’ court. (Chicago Tribune, IL, 4/13/18).
How Drug Courts Can Respond to the Opioid Crisis – The fact is, drug courts are not a panacea—at least as currently implemented. Although Trump’s initiative also calls for increased support for MAT, he only endorses one such medication-assisted treatment, which most experts consider the least effective. Drug courts may be more cost-effective—financially and socially—than prison time, but as currently constituted they have some serious flaws. Evidence-based reform is needed, not the purely punitive solutions of the past. (The Crime Report, MI, 4/12/18).
Juvenile drug use increasing: County receives funding for juvenile drug court – Albany County officials recently received about $78,000 from the Wyoming Department of Health to fund the Albany County Juvenile Drug Court program as an attempt to address drug abuse in youth going through the juvenile court system. Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent said the drug court is unique compared to their other similar programs because it is under the Albany County Juvenile Court and the Juvenile Service Board. (Laramie Boomerang, WY, 4/17/18).
John Legend issues thanks to Gov. Malloy for closing Connecticut Juvenile Training School – Eight-time Grammy Award winning singer John Legend took to Twitter to thank Governor Dannel Malloy for closing the Connecticut Juvenile Training School and “rethinking our approach to juvenile justice.” On Thursday, Governor Malloy released a statement announcing the closure of the to CJTS, making Connecticut the first state to close all youth prisons. Malloy emphasized that the closure of the training school wasn’t a celebratory moment, but rather, “a time to reflect on the past mistakes made when it comes to juvenile justice, and an opportunity to create a system that better serves our young people and society as a whole.” (Fox 61, CT, 4/16/18).
Peer Justice: How and why youth courts work – Alaska is the only state with a statute governing youth courts. Alaska Youth Court (AYC) operates under Alaska Statute 47.12.400, which authorizes youth courts to hear, determine, and dispose of cases involving a minor who commits a misdemeanor. For defendants who participate and complete the process, court records of their offense are sealed and may not be used in the future. Results are positive. Teens referred to youth courts re-offend in the first year at a rate of 16 percent; those handled through the juvenile justice system have a re-offense rate of 39 percent. (Alaska Public Media, AK, 4/13/18).
Raise the Age delay goes to full Louisiana Senate – Though four 17-year-olds recently have been raped in adult jails, a Louisiana Senate committee accepted arguments Tuesday that the state simply couldn’t afford to start the two-year-old law that would put offenders that age into juvenile facilities. The Louisiana Senate Judiciary A Committee voted 4-2 to delay the “Raise the Age” Act, which was supposed to go into effect July 1. The first stage of the transition would involve nonviolent offenders. Prosecutors and sheriffs argue that because of the state’s fiscal situation, there’s not enough money to effectively start the programs and hire the additional personnel that the changes require. (The Advocate, LA, 4/10/18).
‘Community Hero’ Attorney Steve Binder and San Diego’s Homeless Court Program – Binder, a retiring deputy public defender, has just been named a Community Hero for his creation of a Homeless Court Program in 1989. The honor is given by KPBS and the National Conflict Resolution Center. He first became involved in Stand Down, a yearly fair held on the grounds of San Diego High School where veterans are invited to come for rest, relaxation, and services. It was there he realized the need for a Homeless Court Program (HCP). “Part of what we do in the homeless court is that we set aside guilt and innocence, and reconcile the accomplishments participants made against the conduct of the offence, addressing the underlying cause of homelessness. Our focus is to reclaim lives. (San Diego Free Press, CA, 4/18/18).
Wisconsin to Start Family Treatment Court to Address Drugs – A new family treatment court in Wisconsin aims to help children by more intensely addressing their parents’ drug addiction. Kenosha County is launching a Family Drug Treatment Court, the Kenosha News reported. The court will have new substance abuse treatment programs for parents who’ve had their children taken into foster care. Parents will be required to routinely go before a judge to discuss their progress. The goal is to find better ways to handle parents with addiction issues, Rogers said. Treatment will be funded through Medicaid so the county won’t be devoting additional county funds to the program, he said. (U.S. News and World Report, WI, 4/15/18).
Study finds serious shortcomings in Travis County indigent defense – Travis County officials may increase pay for indigent defense lawyers, in response to a recent study that found that poor defendants are receiving worse representation in low-level felony drug cases than those who hire their own lawyers. County Judge Sarah Eckhardt will announce a proposal Tuesday at the Commissioner’s Court to discontinue a flat-fee schedule that she says discourages quality courtroom advocacy. For example, Eckhardt said it is not uncommon for a defendant with a court-appointed attorney to be nudged into pleading guilty by a lawyer who gains nothing by fighting to get the case dismissed. A lawyer is paid $550 if a case ends in a plea deal and is paid that same amount if the case ends in a dismissal. (The Statesman, TX, 4/18/18).
Justice Delayed For Those Who Can Least Afford It? – he State Public Defender’s Office pays attorneys like Slattery $40 an hour to represent poorer clients who have been charged with crimes — the $40 compensation is the lowest compensation rate in the nation for private attorneys assigned such cases. The rate of pay has made it difficult for the state to find private attorneys willing to take their cases, according to the office’s communications director Randy Kraft. The lack of lawyers willing to take public defender cases is delaying justice for some victims, said Bayfield County District Attorney Kim Lawton. (Wisconsin Public Radio, WI, 4/16/18).
COA orders withdrawal of guilty plea made without counsel – The Franklin Circuit Court must withdraw a first-time felon’s pleas to two drug counts after erroneously finding the man knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently waived his right to counsel. Wirthlin then appealed in Stephen Wirthlin v. State of Indiana, 24A01-1711-CR-2662, and the Indiana Court of Appeals on Wednesday reversed the denial of his motion to withdraw. Judge John Baker initially noted that Wirthlin never explicitly waived his right to counsel orally, but only said he was “not sure” what he would do about an attorney. (The Indiana Lawyer, IN, 4/11/18).
Galveston Lawsuit Is Writing on the Wall for Other Counties that Haven’t Ended ‘Wealth-Based Detention’ – Last summer, the ACLU of Texas warned that Galveston County operates an unconstitutional bail system. In a letter to county officials, ACLU staff attorney Trisha Trigilio told county officials that holding defendants for days without counsel or a meaningful bail hearing had lead to “an overcrowded jail where more than 70 percent of people behind bars are innocent people awaiting trial.” But change didn’t come fast enough for the ACLU. This week, Galveston County became the latest target of lawsuits to end the practice of keeping people in jail just because they’re poor. (The Texas Observer, TX, 4/10/18).
Benjamin Marchman is a student assistant in the Justice Programs Office.