Friday News Roundup: November 30, 2018

Friday News Roundup

The CDC publishes a staggering record of drug overdose fatalities in 2017, Michigan seeks to raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 17, and Norfolk, VA stands out for its positive work in drug courts. All of these stories and more in this week’s news roundup.

Criminal Justice News

Shutting former criminals out of opportunity is economically foolish – Shutting people with criminal records out of the workforce costs the United States up to $87 billion in lost gross domestic product every year. Individuals who can’t make a living legally are more likely to continue breaking the law and are likely to go back to prison, causing costs to rise even higher. (USA Today, D.C., November 23, 2018)

Public safety spending tied up in Louisiana budget dispute –  BATON ROUGE, LA. About $43 million in spending, mainly earmarked for public safety programs, is stalled in the disagreement between Gov. John Bel Edwards and House Republican leaders over state income projections. (Miami Herald, LA, November 28, 2018)

Forfeit a $42,000 Land Rover for a minor drug offense? Supreme Court appears skeptical of state punishment – The disparity was at the heart of a Supreme Court oral argument Wednesday on whether the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of “excessive fines” applies to the states. If the justices rule that it does – which appeared all but certain – hefty fees, fines and forfeitures imposed by state and local governments may be in jeopardy. Their arguments point to a trend that has resulted in some 10 million people owing more than $50 billion, according to a study by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and the National Institute of Justice. (USA Today, D.C., November 28, 2018)

Americans Favor Expanded Pretrial Release, Limited Use of Jail – National poll finds strong support for alternatives to detention. Pretrial detention can last days, months, or even years, and this practice has far-reaching effects on defendants, victims, court systems, and communities. To help policymakers understand how the public thinks the pretrial justice system ought to work, this chartbook presents the results of a nationally representative survey of 1,215 individuals conducted in 2018 by a bipartisan team of pollsters: Benenson Strategy Group and GS Strategy Group. (The PEW Charitable Trusts, USA, November 21, 2018)

Opioid News

‘The Numbers Are So Staggering. ’Overdose Deaths Set a Record Last Year. – A class of synthetic drugs has replaced heroin in many major American drug markets, ushering in a more deadly phase of the opioid epidemic. New numbers Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that drug overdoses killed more than 70,000 Americans in 2017, a record. (The New York Times, USA, November 29, 2018)

Babies of the opioid crisis seek their day in court – Lawyers representing babies who were born addicted to opioids are trying to break away from the massive national litigation underway, arguing that these particularly vulnerable victims need a legal pathway all their own. A federal judge in Cleveland overseeing the complex lawsuit against opioid makers and distributors is encouraging hundreds of local governments, Native American tribes, hospitals, and patients who filed separate lawsuits to soon reach a single settlement worth potentially hundreds of billions of dollars from companies that pushed out the powerful painkillers while downplaying their risks. (Politico, USA, November 29, 2018)

New York City to Spend $8 Million Combatting Bronx Opioid Epidemic – New York City is dedicating $8 million to programs aimed at stemming drug-overdose deaths in the Bronx, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday. The announcement comes as the city and the New York State Department of Health wrangle over the opening of four safe-injection sites in the city and as rates of unintentional drug-overdose deaths rose for the seventh-straight year. In 2017, one New Yorker died every six hours from an overdose, according to city. (The Wall Street Journal, NY, November 28, 2018)

Drug Treatment Courts

For 20 years, Norfolk’s drug court has used a different kind of justice to help addicts – Drug courts turn typically combative prosecutors and defense lawyers into collaborators. Together with judges, probation officers and treatment counselors, they work with offenders to help them end their addiction, using a system of gradual sanctions before resorting to incarceration. (Daily Press, VA, November 22, 2018)

Drug Court aims to combat opioid crisis by keeping addicts accountable for their recovery – The City of Lynchburg is working to combat the opioid crisis one person at a time with their Drug Court. The Lynchburg Drug Court began with a goal of helping people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. The program gives participants access to resources to help them reach sobriety. (ABC 13, VA, November 27, 2018)

Juvenile Justice

The juvenile justice system is stacked against poor families – Navigating the juvenile justice system can be daunting for any family. Waiving right to counsel or pleading guilty has obvious and far-reaching negative consequences. The financial strain caused by legal costs does, too. More than half of the families that the Juvenile Law Center interviewed have gone into debt because of court fees. This, in turn, severs family relationships and keeps youths under justice-system supervision until the debt is paid. (The Washington Post, D.C., November 20, 2018)

Effort to classify 17-year-olds as youth in criminal justice system revived in House – A bipartisan effort to classify 17-year-olds as juveniles instead of adults in Michigan’s criminal justice system is picking up steam again as the legislative session winds down. Michigan is one of a handful of states where 17-year-olds are automatically tried, sentenced and incarcerated as adults if they’re charged with or convicted of a crime. Lawmakers in the House are hoping to undo that precedent and classify 17-year-olds as youth offenders for nonviolent crimes by 2021. The 21-bill package cleared its first hurdle Wednesday, passing 9-2 in the House Law and Justice Committee. (Michigan News, MI, November 28, 2018)

Report Gives Snapshot of South Dakota’s Juvenile Justice System – The goal is to ultimately decrease the number of minors behind bars, reduce crime, lower costs for taxpayers and have better outcomes for South Dakota’s youth and families. The Oversight Council is trying to do that by looking at data from the juvenile justice system and ultimately fixing whatever isn’t working. (Nexstar Broadcasting Inc., SD, November 27, 2018)

Public Defense

Lawmakers must decide on public defense overhaul – Mississippi’s Public Defender Task Force is gone. How the Legislature reacts next year to the task force’s final report will determine whether it’s forgotten. The group conducted an extensive study of how Mississippi provides lawyers to criminal defendants who can’t afford their own, detailing a rickety county-by-county system where low pay may incentivize public defenders in many counties to skimp on work, at the same time that defenders may fear fighting hard for their clients because that might upset judges who appointed them. (The Mississippi Business Journal, MS, November 19, 2018)

Ingham County officials set to interview seven public defender candidates – Seven local attorneys are vying to head a new office that will ensure poor people accused of a crime in Ingham County get a fair fight in court. They’ll have a chance to prove themselves next month as a seven-member panel prepares to review applications and interview candidates to help open the county’s public defender office. Currently, the county — like most other Michigan counties — appoints private attorneys on a case-by-case basis to represent criminal defendants who can’t afford their own lawyer. (Lansing State Journal, MI, November 26, 2018)

Veterans Treatment Courts

Veterans’ Courts essential to help those who make our freedoms possible – Without the men and women who’ve served in our country’s military and the extraordinary and courageous sacrifices they’ve made on our behalves, our way of living would likely be very different. As a way to give back to those who served in the military that may be struggling and find themselves in the confines of the court system, several counties across the state have instituted specialized Veterans’ Courts. (Herald Standard, PA, November 20, 2018)