Suspicious parcels targeting United States officials and CNN staff were, thankfully, kept out of harms way, a decision to end oversight of a juvenile court in Memphis causes uproar, and Wisconsin recognizes issues around paying public defenders. All of these stories and more in this week’s news roundup.
Criminal Justice News
The Memo: Bomb attacks expose festering divisons – Partisan enmity, incendiary rhetoric and polarization were under a more intense spotlight than ever Wednesday after crude explosive devices were sent to several leading Democratic politicians and to CNN. (The Hill, D.C., October 25, 2018).
FBI confirms additional suspicious packages sent to Biden, Robert DeNiro – The FBI on Thursday it was investigating several suspicious packages sent to former Vice President Joe Biden and actor Robert De Niro, a day after explosive devices were mailed to the homes of former Presidents Obama and Clinton, as well as other top Democrats. Biden was the target of two separate packages, the FBI reported Thursday, while De Niro’s office in New York was also targeted with one suspicious parcel. (The Hill, D.C., October 25, 2018).
Drug Treatment Courts
3 graduate from drug court; prepare for changed lives – As three Cabell County drug court participants approached the bench for hopefully the last time to shake the hand of Judge Greg Howard and their probation officers and receive the stone that marks their successful completion of the program, families were being reunited. (Herald Dispatch, WV, October 21, 2018).
New Opiate Court to Redirect People to Treatment First – The criminal justice system is steppin in to help keep opioid addicts clean. Beginning December 1, an opiate courtroom is expected to open in Monroe County. In order to make this new court a success, Judge DeMarco said community stakeholders must all be in the loop from law enforcement officers, to medical providers and prosecutors. (Spectrum News, NY, October 22, 2018).
Police, judges: No easy answers in determining when to release juvenile suspects from custody – Madison Police Chief Mike Koval was so frustrated with how the Dane County juvenile justice system has been handling a small group of repeat juvenile offenders that in a provocative blog post last week he referred to the system with “justice” in quotes. But even he subscribes to the prevailing wisdom among Dane County’s liberal leaders that children who commit crimes are as much victims as victimizers, and that providing them with services to address mental health, past trauma and family stability will not only help them, but go a long way toward a safer Madison. (Wisconsin State Journal, WI, October 23, 2018)
Local Leaders Argue Ending Juvenile Court Oversight is Too Soon – The Department of Justice is closing its agreement with the Shelby County Juvenile Court and Detention Center, but local leaders are working to continue the oversight. Saturday, a representative from Juvenile Court updated Shelby County School parents on students caught up in the system during the district’s Parent Institute Workshop. (Local Memphis, TN, October 20, 2018).
Officials laud Juvenile Resource Center – Heading toward six months since the Juvenile Resource Center became a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operation, those in charge say the system is working as planned. The end-goal is to try to build systems that will allow children to make mistakes, and as a system to redirect efforts to respond to those mistakes. (Star Beacon, OH, October 21, 2018).
A look at California’s new juvenile justice laws – In recent years, Gov. Jerry Brown has been attempting to shift the state’s approach to juvenile justice. And over the past five years, lawmakers have passed a number of bills aimed at doing just that. These new laws are already changing the justice system for minors and those individuals who were convicted of a crime when they were younger than 18-years-old. (ABC 10 Connect, CA, October 22, 2018).
State public defender pay, accessibility causing gridlock in Brown, other Wisconsin courts – Lawyers and judges say it’s a statewide problem driven largely by a pay rate for public defender work that hasn’t been changed in more than two decades and is the lowest in the nation. In many cases, the $40-an-hour rate paid for lawyers to represent indigent defendants doesn’t even cover a lawyer’s overhead costs. (Green Bay Press Gazette, WI, October 22 2018).
Utah State Bar meets lower income needs with ‘Access to Justice Dept’ – The Access To Justice Department with the Utah State Bar is tasked with meeting the civil needs of lower income individuals who can’t afford an attorney. In criminal law there is the right to counsel with public defenders if you qualify based on your income. In civil cases (eviction, debt collection, divorce, custody) there isn’t a right to counsel. Someone involved in these civil cases sometimes receives counsel or help from volunteers or attorneys willing to work pro bono, or non-profit organizations. (Good4Utah, UT, October 23 2018).
Herring Calls for Criminal Justice Reform at Summit – Attorney General Mark Herring announced his support and latest efforts to secure reforms to the Commonwealth’s cash bail system before 1,400 people gathered at Fairfax High School on Sunday, Oct. 21,for the annual summit of VOICE – Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement. At the event, Herring gave the attendees a preview of a statement released on Monday, Oct. 22, announcing the letter and legal memo he had submitted to the Virginia State Crime Commission outlining potential policy and constitutional concerns with the state’s current system, and providing principles for consideration toward reform that would “ensure public safety without unnecessarily jailing low-income Virginians. (Centre View, VA, October 23 2018).
Veterans Treatment Courts
Veterans Treatment Court celebrates its first graduates – “It’s very exciting to see the successes,” said Melissa Solano, Bullhead City court administrator and VTC coordinator. “Both because this is the first and because we see so many of the struggles — it means something to see these gentlemen accomplish what they’ve accomplished and it means everything to be able to not leave them behind, to not let them slip through the cracks and to give back a little bit of help.” (Mohave Valley Daily News, AZ, October 23 2018).