Friday News Roundup: December 7, 2018

Friday News Roundup

Congress’ criminal justice reform bill, The First Step Act, is at the center of discussions this week, opioid lawsuits thrust Florida into a frenzy, and Google partners with the 49ers to invest $2.4M into youth justice reform in California. All of these stories and more in this week’s news roundup.

Criminal Justice News

The First Step Act, Congress’s criminal justice reform bill, explained – President Donald Trump and Congress may be on the verge of passing actual bipartisan legislation that would ever so slightly ease mass incarceration — though opposition from some Republican holdouts in the Senate could quash the bill’s chances of passage as the clock runs out on this session of Congress. The bill, known as the First Step Act, would take modest steps to reform the criminal justice system and ease very punitive prison sentences at the federal level. (Vox, D.C., December 3, 2018)

After juvenile justice overhaul, lawmakers look at changes to adult corrections system – Some lawmakers instrumental in passing an overhaul of the state’s juvenile corrections system think that under the new administration, they can go for round two: curbing the rising adult prison population. Their effort earlier this year resulted in legislation to shutter the state’s embattled Lincoln Hills youth prison by January 2021, replacing it with a less-centralized system for youth offenders. With the number of prisoners in Wisconsin continuing to rise, some in the Legislature believe the time is ripe to make fresh changes to the adult criminal justice system. (The Wisconsin State Journal, WI, November 24, 2018)

Opioid News

China and the United States come to agreement at G-20 summit around fentanyl – The United States came to an agreement with China at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires this week over the regulation of the opioid fentanyl, which is linked to thousands of overdoses in the United States. China and the United States released individual statements regarding the bilateral agreement about the ongoing trade war between them, and both said they had found some common ground on further regulating the drug fentanyl. (NBC News, USA, December 2, 2018)

Opioid lawsuits: 1,000+ local governments sue drug makers, pharmacies – More than a thousand local governments across the country are suing drug makers – and even chain pharmacies, like CVS and Walgreens – in federal court in the next battlefront in the war on the opioid epidemic. In all, more than 1,400 local governments have filed lawsuits in federal court, taking on opioid drug makers and manufacturers in a move reminiscent of past court battles against big tobacco. (ABC News, FL, December 4, 2018)

Drug Treatment Courts

Cullen: Federal court hopes to be model for opioid cases – Thomas Cullen, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, discusses his plans for attacking the opioid crisis in the district. “But while I firmly believe that vigorous prosecution is a critical part of dealing with this epidemic, it will not solve the problem. Accordingly, my office is taking a multi-faceted approach, supporting meaningful prevention and recovery programs.” (The Roanoke Times, VA, December 4, 2018)

Juvenile Justice

Colorado Task Force Recommends Changes To Juvenile Justice System – A task force charged with evaluating Colorado’s juvenile justice system released its final report this month. It points to shortcomings in the system and puts forth a number of policy recommendations.The Improving Outcomes for Youth Task Force brought together lawmakers and experts from across the criminal justice system to examine the efficacy of the juvenile system in Colorado. (NPR, CO, November 29, 2018)

Google and 49ers Sow $2.4 Million Investment into Youth Justice Reform in California – The philanthropic arm of Google and the San Francisco 49ers football club are giving $2.35 million to the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) to support the California Youth Justice Initiative, a comprehensive juvenile justice reform effort in Santa Clara County, California. According to Frankie Guzman, director of the California Youth Justice Initiative at NCYL, the four-year effort will allow the Oakland-based organization to work with more than 300 youth a year in Santa Clara County who are either arrested or placed on probation. (The Chronicle of Social Change, CA, December 4, 2018)

Parents Are Cutting Off Their Opioid-Addicted Kids — and It’s the Toughest Decision of Their Lives – Money struggles are a common theme in addiction stories. Drug abuse eschews logic; rent money and retirement savings don’t often top an addict’s list of priorities. As a result, many parents, like the Humphreys, foot the bill for every debt their child neglects—on top of every recovery strategy (rehab, outpatient counseling, therapy) they can throw their paychecks at. (Money, USA, November 12, 2018)

Public Defense

Dealing with the high cost of cracking down on crime – Law and justice — which includes Superior and District courts, the Asotin County Jail, the sheriff’s office, the prosecutor’s office and indigent defense — consumes 72 percent of the general fund, Chief Operating Officer Chris Kemp said. “We cannot continue spending at the rate we are without some kind of a revenue increase,” Kemp said. (The Lewiston Tribune, ID, December 4, 2018)

Public Defenders File En Masse Requests To Get Mentally Ill People Out Of Jail – Public defenders across the state [Colorado] have filed 64 requests to judges in recent weeks to get mentally ill people immediately moved out of jails. The people in jail have been charged with crimes, but have been deemed incompetent and are awaiting competency restoration provided by state officials. They technically have 28 days to get people this treatment, but wait times are extending far beyond that. (Colorado Public Radio, CO, December 4, 2018)

Paying fairly for public defense – The reason for the large pay disparity? It has something to do with the fact that while assistant district attorneys are county employees, the state [Oregon] uses a somewhat stagnant “case rate” contracting model to pay the various nonprofit agencies, attorney consortia and law firms that provide indigent defense at the trial level in Oregon. Those groups are paid a flat rate by case type, regardless of the amount of work an attorney puts into a case. (The Register-Guard, OR, November 30, 2018)

Veterans Treatment Courts

Hamilton County Felony Veteran Treatment Court helps vets out of addiction, homelessness The veteran treatment court connects former service members facing felony charges with case managers, probation officers and veteran mentors to identify the factors contributing to their offenses and create a plan to stable and sober. The entire rehabilitation process takes around two years, according to Judge Ethna Cooper. As the court’s only judge, she has supervised 64 veterans’ successful graduation from its program since its creation in 2010. They range from those who participated in the Vietnam War to those who have recently returned from places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. (WCPO Cincinnati, OH, December 3, 2018)