U.S. Representative Doug Collins introduces a bipartisan bill to combat the opioid epidemic, an Illinois law designed to seal juvenile records has unintended consequences for police misconduct cases, and Tennessee approves $9.7 million in funding for indigent defense. All of this and much more in this week’s edition of the Friday News Roundup.
Drug Treatment Courts
County Applying For $500,000 Federal Grant To Expand Drug Court – The county is applying for a $500,000 grant to expand its Drug Court program. Dan Saieed, county development director, said the grant would cover 48 months. Drug Court, which is overseen by Criminal Court Judge Tom Greenholtz, now serves 60 repeat offenders. The new funding would allow a second Drug Court docket for 30 new clients with no prior felony. (The Chattanoogan, TN, 5/30/18).
Rensselaer County Drug Court uses grant to give opioid addicts new start – The defendant enters the drug court program under intense supervision, court monitoring and long-term treatment. This approach was failing opioid users, though, and a new direction had to be taken. That’s where a three-year $300,000 federal Bureau of Judicial Assistance Grant through the state Office of Court Administration provided Young an opportunity to solve the problem. The new source of funding allowed Young to hire Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) to identify opioid users at the jail who could benefit from the new intensive drug court program. TASC assists in getting these defendants into treatment programs and securing the transportation to get them there from the jail and to court. (The Times Union, NY, 5/29/18).
Collins offers bipartisan drug abuse prevention bill – U.S. Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) has introduced the bipartisan Substance Abuse Prevention Act of 2018 to proactively thwart the nation’s opioid epidemic. In an overview of the bill provided by Rep. Collins’ office, as well as draft text for S. 2789 in the congressional record, the measure would reauthorize several major government offices in a concerted effort “to prevent substance abuse and reduce the demand for illicit narcotics.” (The Ripon Advance, 5/25/18).
DuPage develops plan to spend $100,000 to respond to opioid crisis – DuPage County is contributing $100,000 to kick-start two projects to combat the opioid crisis. Half the funding will be used to develop a “substance use treatment navigation” system to help individuals seeking treatment for opioid use disorder. The other half will be used to start a specialty drug court for first-time offenders. Meanwhile, the new specialty court for first-time drug offenders will provide a more comprehensive and supportive approach for individuals struggling with drug use disorders. (Daily Herald, IL, 5/22/18).
Promise of family services misses the mark in Arkansas, study says – Any adult can file a Families in Need of Services petition, like the one Gross submitted in Independence County on behalf of her son. The family-services program addresses noncriminal-status offenses, including disobedience, truancy and runaways. Arkansas laws offer little guidance on how the Families in Need of Services program should be used. State statutes refer to Families in Need of Services intermittently throughout a chapter that deals with Juvenile Courts and Proceedings, also known as the Juvenile Code. The code also covers juvenile delinquency and dependency-neglect. As a result, youth advocates say, the program has become punitive, pushing even children who have committed no serious offenses into the juvenile justice system. (Arkansas Online, AR, 5/29/18).
‘Raise the Age’ passage sets Missouri on path to re-establish itself as youth justice model – Near-unanimous passage of the so-called “Raise the Age” bill (SB 793), which raises from 17 to 18 the age at which youths are automatically charged as adults, will benefit the state’s young people in ways that are both obvious (better age-appropriate treatment, protection from the extreme dangers of incarceration with adults) and far-reaching (reduced recidivism, increased employment), with long-term economic benefits for the state as a whole. As Missouri focuses on implementing “Raise the Age” over the next few years, it has a unique opportunity to once again become a model for youth justice. (Springfield News-Leader, MO, 5/26/18).
State law that keeps juvenile records private also shields police from scrutiny, advocates say – Then state lawmakers strengthened the Juvenile Court Act a few years ago, they said they believed it would protect children. Minors caught up in the criminal justice system should not suffer lifelong repercussions for youthful indiscretions — or so the thinking behind the law goes — and thus their police records should be sealed to the public. But the 2015 change that extends juvenile confidentiality protections has also had unintended effects — like shielding from scrutiny the actions of some police officers involved in fatal encounters with minors — that its proponents now say run counter to their intentions. As a result, the public has no way of knowing or even attempting to evaluate whether an officer acted appropriately during interactions with juvenile suspects. (The Chicago Tribune, IL, 5/26/18).
Revival of juvenile drug court eyed in Eastern Panhandle – A revival of the Eastern Panhandle’s juvenile drug court program — after it dissolved in November 2016 — appears in the works. The Berkeley County Council approved a letter on Thursday asking that 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Bridget Cohee be appointed to preside over juvenile drug court in the county. Leftwich wrote that he and the high court’s administrative director, Gary Johnson, would review the application before the state’s five justices look at it and give final approval. (Herald-Mail Media, WV, 5/25/18).
Doing more with less: ND’s juvenile justice system looks ahead amid budget cuts, increasing referrals – Last year, the state passed a handful of justice reforms, including some related to substance abuse and behavioral health, such as the Free Through Recovery program for offenders’ peer support. But those bills did not include juveniles. And amid discussion of potentially more state budget cuts, legislators heard last month that further cuts to the judicial branch would critically affect the state’s juvenile court system. About 75 percent of the judicial budget is salaries and wages. (The Bismarck Tribune, ND, 5/22/18).
Justices won’t hear Johnson County public defender suit – The Indiana Supreme Court has denied transfer to a case challenging the constitutionality of Johnson County’s contract-based public defender system, a decision one of the attorneys representing county defendants said was disappointing and cowardly. The court – excluding Justices Geoffrey Slaughter and Christopher Goff, who did not participate – unanimously denied transfer to Kenneth Alford, et al. v. Johnson County Commissioners, et al., 73A04-1702-PL-223, last week. The plaintiffs in the original 2015 complaint sued Johnson County and its judges and public defenders, alleging they had created a system that allowed public defenders to carry caseloads far exceeding acceptable maximums. (The Indiana Lawyer, IN, 5/30/18).
State approves $9.7 million for indigent representation – The state Legislature has allocated almost $10 million to improve representation of indigent defendants in court cases across the state — a step for which the Tennessee Bar Association lobbied this year. State senators and representatives approved the budget, including the $9.7 million allocation, on April 19. Gov. Bill Haslam signed the appropriations bill on May 21. The funding is earmarked to increase compensation for attorneys appointed to individuals who cannot afford their own representation. (USA Today, TN, 5/28/18).
S.F. tenants facing eviction could soon have the right to a free attorney – Last year, more than 1,600 San Francisco renters received eviction notices. Some of them fought back in court, but many — even those who had a good case — gave up and moved out because they didn’t know their legal rights. That could all change in June, as voters consider Proposition F, which would provide free legal help to anyone facing eviction. If the ballot initiative passes, it would be a watershed moment for a growing national movement. Cities across the country — especially those with housing shortages — are making legal counsel a basic right, not just a privilege for those who can afford it. (KALW Local Public Radio, CA, 5/23/18).
State Owes Counties $2.6 Billion For Indigent Defense Costs – Texas county commissioners say the state of Texas owes its 254 counties about $2.6 billion in for the cost of providing indigent defendants a proper trial defense. Cary Roberts, a spokesman for the Texas Association of Counties, tells The Associated Press the figure dates back to the 2001 start of the state’s indigent defense program. He said providing proper indigent defense “continues to be one of the cost drivers that continue to make it difficult on counties to balance their budgets.” (KTSA 550, TX, 5/23/18).
Waiting on Justice: Pretrial detention in Mississippi – Innocent until proven guilty, but for thousands of pretrial detainees currently in county jails across Mississippi, it can seem the other way around. “Pretrial detention is a problem set across the state of Mississippi,” said Jennifer Collins, executive director of the Mississippi ACLU. Collins said there’s no one reason for the problem. Take Roddrick Green, for example. He’s in the Forrest County Jail on aggravated assault, weapons and drug charges after being arrested in October 2014. He’s been in jail for more than 3 ½ years, waiting on a court ordered mental health evaluation. Then there are others, some not even indicted, who’ve been waiting for months, and in some cases years. Many stay there because they can’t afford bail, they’re waiting on a grand jury or because investigations aren’t complete. (WDAM 7, MS, 5/22/18).
Veterans Treatment Courts
‘They deserve that special opportunity’ – Officials are in the exploratory phase of creating a veterans court in the state’s Third Judicial District, a region that covers 11 counties in Southeast Minnesota, including Olmsted and Mower counties. The effort is being spearheaded by Judge Ross Leuning, a 38-year Navy veteran who was appointed to his judgeship in the Third Judicial District in 2011 after serving in Iraq. One reason the courts have not been used in Southeast Minnesota so far, court officials say, is that no county has had enough veterans to make it work. But a court that encompassed the entire Third District was seen as creating the critical mass of veterans needed to justify it. There are about 30,000 veterans in the district, Leuning said. (Post Bulletin, MN, 5/29/18).
‘I am somebody’: For North Shore veteran, Camp NORA offers ray of hope – After bouncing through countless jails and rehab centers and living on the streets in New Orleans and beyond, U.S. Army and Navy veteran Tommy Clark found himself sitting in a jail cell this year in Franklinton, not far from where his life went off the rails some 30 years ago. His parole officers told him about Camp NORA, a transitional facility for homeless veterans that was soon to open at a former orphanage on a beautiful piece of property in the rural Barker’s Corner community, north of Covington. He’s now attending veterans court, has a checking account, goes to a clinic in Slidell for mental health services, and is seeking to restore his financial credit. (The Times-Picayune, LA, 5/27/18).
County judges announce new Veterans Court – Standing in the middle of the oldest American Legion Post in the state, surrounded by municipal, district and circuit judges, Lauderdale County Circuit Judge Will Powell announced Friday the creation of a Veterans Court. Mary Day Smith, adjutant for the American Legion Post 11, said there are more than 9,300 veterans in the area. Powell said the first Veterans Court will likely start in January 2019. (Times Daily, AL, 5/26/18).