Delaware lawmakers race against the legislative clock to pass money bail reform, audit finds increased violence in Louisiana juvenile facilities, and the ACLU is challenging New Hampshire’s debt-collection methods for public defense fees. All these stories and much more in the latest edition of the Friday News Roundup.
Criminal Justice News
Legislative Clock Threatens to Derail Delaware Bail Reform Efforts – Lawmakers in Dover are considering a legislative package to amend the Delaware Constitution and end the state’s reliance on cash bail, as a looming end-of-session deadline threatens to delay the reforms. Constitutional amendments must clear two consecutive legislatures by a two-thirds majority. If lawmakers fail to approve the first leg this session, the constitutional amendment bill will need to be reintroduced when the 150th General Assembly convenes next January and then passed again two years later, meaning the reforms would not go into effect until 2021 at the earliest. (Delaware Law, DE, 6/15/18).
Congress begins long series of small steps to address opioid epidemic – In Day Two of an expansive push to stem drug addiction and opioid-related deaths, the U.S. House on Wednesday passed a series of bills including three sponsored by Pennsylvania members. The bills address incentives for pharmaceutical research into non-addictive pain treatments, expansions of electronic health record systems, coordination of efforts across federal agencies, improvements to public education and more. Senate action and Mr. Trump’s signature also are required for enactment. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, PA, 6/14/18).
Audit finds increase in violence at Office of Juvenile Justice facilities – An increase in violence inside Louisiana’s juvenile prisons in recent years is just one of the findings in a state legislative audit. The Office of Juvenile Justice oversees three facilities in the state, including the Bridge City Center for Youth, where FOX 8 has reported multiple arrests of juveniles in recent weeks due to violent incidents. According to the report, in the past five years, there has been a 121 percent increase in violence at the Bridge City facility. Dr. James Bueche is head of the Office of Juvenile Justice. Dr. Bueche says budget constraints are making it more difficult to comply. Dr. Bueche points out OJJ’s budget was decreased by $71 million over the past 10 years. (Fox 8 News, LA, 6/13/18).
Maine’s top court grapples with justice system’s treatment of youths – Judges on the state’s top court questioned whether the justice system is failing young Mainers Wednesday. In court, Chief Justice Leigh Saufley said that the state appears to leap from home care to incarceration when there should be intermediary options available to young people. The court did not seem to be clearly leaning one way or the other in the case and reserved its decision for a later date. (Bangor Daily News, ME, 6/13/18).
Problem Solving Court
Program helps 3 moms get their children back – Thursday morning in Bibb County Superior Court, Butts came before the judge to pick up her certificate from the new Parenting Treatment Court Program. Butts is one of three mothers who completed nearly two years of learning proper discipline and parenting techniques after being arrested for hurting their children. “Our goal is to break the cycle of abuse and neglect,” Beberman said at the ceremony. In his 30 years as an attorney, Beberman noticed parental abusers often were mimicking the way they were disciplined as a child. (The Telegraph, GA, 6/14/18).
Michigan lawmakers approve $84M to give the poor a fair fight in court – Michigan will spend $84 million to make sure poor people accused of a crime get a fair fight in court. The money will fund efforts by counties and other local governments to improve their court-appointed attorney systems to meet tough new standards set by the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission. Court-appointed attorneys are paid a fraction of what they can make in the private sector and often put up little fight against the prosecution, a 2016 State Journal investigation found. (Lansing State Journal, MI, 6/19/18).
ACLU challenges state’s debt collection practices for indigent defendants – When the state wants to go after an indigent defendant for attorney’s fees, does it have the right to use the power of arrest and the threat of incarceration, or should it follow the same procedures as any bank, credit card company or other creditor trying to collect on a bad debt? That question was argued before the state Supreme Court on Thursday, with the American Civil Liberties Union on one side and the state of New Hampshire on the other. The ACLU is hoping for a precedent in the case that will establish, as Scherr said, “that bail can only be set to ensure someone will show up, not to collect a debt.” (New Hampshire Union Leader, NH, 6/15/18).
Veterans Treatment Court
‘I’m not anywhere close to the same person’: Veterans Court helping Lancaster County vets turn their lives around – With that quiet start a year ago, the county’s newest problem-solving court had moved from the planning stage to reality with the judge asking Starks about his week, about treatment, about what else was going on in his life. Since then, a group of team members, mentors and others have come together on Tuesday afternoons in Courtroom 31, working to get veterans who have struggled and ended up facing felony charges back on their feet and out of prison. The goal is to treat any issues the participants might be dealing with, whether it be substance-abuse issues or depression or PTSD. But, he said, it’s how participants deal with the setbacks and move forward that’s most telling. (Beatrice Daily Sun, NE, 6/17/18).
Higgins: House approval of legislation expanding support to women veterans & veteran treatment courts – Congressman Brian Higgins announced the House of Representatives approved a pair of bills aimed at providing additional support to women veterans and veterans engaged in the veteran treatment court program.”Both of these bills provide additional people to serve the needs of our veterans,” Higgins said. “Through this human interaction, with outreach specialists and peer counselors, veterans are better supported and positioned to overcome challenges.” This week, the House of Representatives also passed the Peer-to-Peer Counseling Act (H.R. 4635), which calls for an increase in the number of peer support counselors for women veterans. In addition, the bill emphasizes facilitating peer counseling and community outreach to veterans who have suffered sexual trauma, are at risk of being homeless or have post-traumatic stress disorder, or other mental health conditions. (Niagara Frontier Publications, NY, 6/15/18).
Local counties team up to bring veterans treatment court to the Eastern Shore – Treatment instead of incarceration. That’s the goal behind the Dorchester County Regional Veterans’ Treatment Court. It’s a specialty court that’s dedicated to helping our veterans here on the shore. Dorchester County District Judge Melvin Jews says, “We’re going to be providing wrap around services. Everything from mental health treatment to medical health treatment to substance abuse treatment, employment services, family services.” It’s a program that has already seen success in other counties across Maryland. In less than three years, Baltimore City’s veteran treatment court has already helped over 50 veterans. (ABC 47, MD, 6/13/18).