Friday News Roundup: August 17, 2018

Friday News Roundup

West Virginia’s House of Delegates votes to impeach all four Supreme Court justices, indigent families must pay for their child’s attorney in most states, Orleans Parish Juvenile Court becomes the first jurisdiction in the South to end the assessment and collection of discretionary juvenile fees, and L.A. County hasn’t had a public defender in two years and just appointed one.  These stories and much more below in the latest Friday News Roundup. 

Criminal Justice News

West Virginia House Votes To Impeach All 4 State Supreme Court Justices – West Virginia’s House of Delegates voted to impeach all four justices on the state’s Supreme Court of Appeals on Monday. Workman, Loughry, Walker and Davis have all been impeached for failing to carry out their administrative duties. Loughry, Workman and Davis also were impeached for paying retired senior status judges more than the law allowed. Davis and Loughry were impeached for the use of state money to renovate their offices — but Walker and Workman, who spent less on renovations than their colleagues, were cleared of impeachment charges over the expenses. (NPR, 8/ 13/ 2018)

Nebraska Carries Out 1st Execution Using Fentanyl In U.S. – Nebraska has executed its first prisoner since 1997, after a federal three-judge panel denied a drug company’s request to halt the lethal injection over concerns about whether the drugs were obtained improperly by the state. “It’s somewhat ironic that at the same time that the Justice Department and states are talking about how dangerous fentanyl is and how it’s created a national public health emergency that states are now turning to it as a supposedly safe way of killing prisoners,” Dunham said. (NPR, 8/14/ 2018)

Prisoner Workers Like California’s Inmate Firefighters Are ‘Uniquely Vulnerable,’ ACLU Lawyer Says – As firefighters with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection risk their lives battling wildfires in the state, they are joined by a group of nearly 4,000 inmates. California has relied on its prison population to help fight fires since World War II. Today, inmates serving time for nonviolent crimes make up nearly 40 percent of firefighters, saving the state $100 million per year. Some critics say the program is slave labor — inmates often receive no death benefits and make just $2 an hour — and even supporters are concerned about safety. But many inmates also say the work is fulfilling. (WBUR, MA, 8/14/2018)

From Prison To The Workforce – Governments have come up with all sorts of schemes to get former prisoners back into the workforce, to reduce recidivism and turn former criminals into productive members of society. But employers are often nervous about hiring them, for all sorts of reasons, and the evidence for post-conviction employment programs is mixed. But one idea shows a lot of promise […] A rehabilitation certificate. (The Indicator, Planet Money, 8/14/2018)

Drug Treatment Courts

Bucks County gets $2M federal grant to expand drug court – Locking someone up might be the traditional response to address a non-violent offender convicted of a drug crime. But one Bucks County judge believes that, overall, it’s often safer for the community to hold some offenders accountable for their crimes outside prison walls. Last week, the program was awarded a $2 million grant to help cover costs and expand treatment opportunities for participants in the program. (The Intelligencer, PA, 8/13/ 2018)

Mixed results for Operation Rio Grande’s impact on addiction – It’s been a year since Operation Rio Grande got underway to crack down on crime while using new methods to fight homelessness and addiction. While extra funds have given more people access to rehab, it’s also created a waiting list for people needing help with addiction. Carl Henry is one of the addicts that benefited from the expansion of drug court which allowed addicted to choose treatment over jail. (News4Utah, UT, 8/13/2018)

Juvenile Justice

Orleans Parish Juvenile Court abolishes discretionary fines – On July 19, chief judge of the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court system Candice Bates-Anderson signed a resolution declaring that the courts would no longer assess discretionary fines within the juvenile delinquency system. The decision came after the Policy Advocacy Clinic at UC Berkeley’s School of Law presented research on the impact of juvenile fines and fees in Louisiana and other states to the court. (The Louisiana Weekly, LA, 8/13/2018)

Even Indigent Families Must Pay for Their Child’s Attorney in Most States, Report Says – In all but 10 states, the families of children charged with crimes can be assessed fees to use attorneys appointed to represent them or billed for the cost of that representation, according to a new report. “In almost every state, youth or their families must pay for legal assistance even if they are determined to be indigent, either by reimbursing the cost, paying a flat fee, or paying an application or other administrative fee,” the report from Juvenile Law Center says. “Charging families — especially those living in poverty — for ‘free’ attorneys leads to devastating consequences.” (Juvenile Justice Exchange, 8/14/2018)

The Common App Will Stop Asking About Students’ Criminal Histories – The change may be the biggest help to low-income students of color, who are disproportionately likely to have been convicted of a crime. (The Atlantic, 8/10/2018)

Public Defense

Courts in most states charge juveniles to exist inside the justice system. This movement wants to change that. – Tindal is one of many Americans forced to pay fines, fees and restitution while interacting with the juvenile justice system. Laws in almost all states allow courts to charge children and their families for a variety of items and services, including public defenders, drug testing and probation supervision. Research shows these administrative costs have a disparate impact on low-income juveniles of color and increases chances for recidivism. Beyond the general charges for fees and restitution, experts say that laws in 40 states allow courts to evade juveniles’ legal right to an attorney by charging for public defenders and court-appointed attorneys. Last year, California became the first state to repeal the fees after advocates lobbied for the change, though courts can still charge youths fines as punishment and as restitution for victims. (The Washington Post, 8/10/18)

L.A. County hasn’t had a public defender in 2 years. It just appointed one – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has selected criminal defense attorney Ricardo Garcia as the county’s new public defender. Garcia will take over as head of the oldest and largest public defender’s office in the nation, with 700 attorneys who provide criminal defense services for adults and juveniles who cannot afford their own lawyers. The office has been without a permanent head since Ronald Brown retired in 2016. ( Los Angeles Times, CA, 8/16/2018)