Friday News Roundup: October 11, 2018

Friday News Roundup

Kanye West meets with President Trump to discuss prison reform, drug courts help to combat the opioid epidemic, and New York counties hire more public defenders. All of this and much more can be found in this week’s Friday news roundup.

Criminal Justice

Washington State Strikes Down Death Penalty, Citing Racial Bias – The Washington Supreme Court has struck down the state’s death penalty, saying that it is imposed arbitrarily and with racial bias. “We are confident that the association between race and the death penalty is notattributed to random chance,” the justices wrote in a majority opinion. Gov. Jay Inslee issued a moratorium on the death penalty in Washington in 2014, and on Thursday he called the opinion a “hugely important moment in our pursuit for equal and fair application of justice.” (NPR, WA, October 11, 2018)

Justice Kavanaugh Takes the Bench on the Supreme Court – The end of the fight over Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination sets up a new battleground over abortion rights, and activists on both sides of the issue are gearing up for what’s likely to be a series of contentious battles from the high court to state legislatures. (New York Times, DC, October 9, 2018)

Kanye West Visits the White House to Eat Caprese Salad and Talk Prison Reform with Donald Trump – On Thursday, Kanye West followed in the footsteps of his wife Kim Kardashian to meet with his inspiration Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, and Ivanka Trump at the White House. After weeks of vocalizing his support of Trump and wearing Make America Great Again Hats while also wearing Colin Kaepernick sweaters, West reportedly has a lot to discuss with Trump. (Cosmopolitan, DC, October 11, 2018)

Overcrowded: Wisconsin gubernatorial candidates, community programs address prison population size, reform – In a state with a prison capacity of just over 17,000, correctional facilities maintain an incarcerated population of 23,704, straining resources and funding in the process. In the crosshairs of the debates over criminal justice and prison reform are the prisoners themselves, leaving cells overcrowded and Wisconsin taxpayers footing the bill. (Badger Herald, October 9, 2018)

Opioid News

Opioid antidote inventor: We’re in the ‘next phase of this opioid crisis’ – “We think this long-acting opioid treatment has particular advantages,” Crystal told Yahoo Finance, “as we are now in the next phase of this opioid crisis, where the majority of deaths arise from fentanyl.” He added: “It’s the strongest of the opioids, 50 times stronger than heroin, it’s also easier and cheaper to make than heroin, and we see it growing year on year.” (Yahoo Finance, NY, October 9, 2018)

A New Crisis in the Opioid Epidemic… Overdoses on the Job – Across the United States, more than 7 in 10 employers said that their workplaces had been affected by employees’ prescription drug use through injuries, accidents, overdoses, and absenteeism, among other factors. The crisis cuts across class and employment lines, but it’s particularly severe in areas like construction and the restaurant industry. (Healthline, NC, October 8, 2018)

Drug Treatment Courts

How federal grants will help GBI, Drug Courts in opioid fight – The Department of Justice announced Oct. 1 that it will give almost $320 million nationwide in grants targeting the opioid crisis, with the Georgia Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation receiving some of the funding. The projects will increase information sharing as well as a statewide program focused on helping Drug Court participants. (Dawson News, GA, October 10, 2018)

Drug courts save county money and reduce crime – Personal Frontiers announced last month it would be ending its contract with Adult Treatment Courts. The move highlights ongoing struggles treatment providers face as they try to address addiction problems in the community with few resources and high demands. (Tri-County Times, MI, October 6, 2018)

Michigan Supreme Court awards $12M to fund drug courts – The Midland County 42nd Circuit Court will be one of 80 courts statewide to receive money from the Michigan Supreme Court to help fund the operation of drug and sobriety court programs. Each court will receive a portion of the $12 million in Fiscal Year 2019. Extensive follow-up analysis shows that in Fiscal Year 2017, adult drug court graduates were more than three times less likely to commit another crime after two years and unemployment among adult drug court graduates was reduced by 100 percent stated a media release. October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. (Midland Daily News, MI, October 6, 2018)

Juvenile Justice

Santa Clara County DA argues new juvenile prosecution law is unconstitutional – Setting the stage for a legal challenge against a new state law that bars 14-and 15-year-old offenders from being charged as adults, prosecutors questioned its constitutionality Tuesday during a hearing involving a teenager convicted of brutally slaying his classmate in South San Jose. As he did before and after Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 1391 into law last month, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen and his office raised the case of Jae Williams, one of two teens who stabbed 15-year-old Michael Russell in 2009 in what became known as the “thrill kill,” or Devil Boys murder. (October 9, 2018)

Veterans Treatment Courts

At 10 years old, Buffalo’s Veteran Treatment Court Now Mentors Similar Programs – Ten years ago, Buffalo became the first city in the nation to introduce a court specifically for veterans who, through support and treatment, could overcome issues that put them in legal trouble and were preventing them from living lives as productive civilians. Now, Buffalo’s Veteran Treatment Court serves as a mentor for other communities looking to establish the same. (NPR/PBS, NY, October 10, 2018)

Public Defense

Job fair to launch public defender hiring spree – With $250 million added to state coffers, counties in New York will go on a hiring spree for public defenders. It kicks off Oct. 19 with a job fair at the University at Buffalo in Amherst. “We’re going to more than double in size,” said Kevin Stadelmaier, chief attorney in the criminal defense unit of Legal Aid of Buffalo Inc. (Buffalo Law Journal, NY, October 8, 2018)

Interactive map: a county-by-county look at spending on public defense in Pennsylvania – In Pennsylvania’s scattershot system, funding varies widely depending on where you live. In the interactive map above, you can toggle between how much county public defender offices had to spend per adult criminal case, or by their budget per capita. Both use 2015 data. On the low end of both metrics, you’ll find Fayette County, the place where Crystal Weimer was wrongfully convicted for a murder she didn’t commit, and was then jailed for nearly 12 years. (WHYY, PN, October 4, 2018)