Friday News Roundup: December 21, 2018

Friday News Roundup

Congress passes the First Step Act, the holidays bring a mix of joy and grief to families whose loved ones overdosed, and positive changes to public defenders’ officers are implemented. All of these stories and more in this week’s news roundup.

Criminal Justice News

Congress just passed the most significant criminal justice reform bill in decades – The US House of Representatives on Thursday passed a criminal justice reform bill, sending the most significant changes to the federal criminal justice system in decades to President Donald Trump’s desk. The Senate previously overwhelmingly approved the legislation in an 87-12 vote. The bill, called the First Step Act, makes modest changes to the federal system. (Vox, Washington D.C., December 20, 2018)

Opioid News

How do you recover after millions have watched you overdose? – As opioid deaths have soared in recent years, police departments and strangers with cameras have started posting raw, uncensored images of drug users passed out with needles in their arms and babies in the back seats of their cars. The videos rack up millions of views and unleash avalanches of outrage. Then some other viral moment comes along, and the country clicks away. But life is never the same for the people whose bleakest, most humiliating moments now live online forever. In interviews with The New York Times, they talked — some for the very first time — about the versions of themselves captured in the videos. (The New York Times, USA, December 12, 2018)

Ohio Civil Suits May Encourage Drug Firms To Help Solve Opioid Epidemic – A federal judge is allowing a massive civil case against some of the biggest drug makers to move forward. Hundreds of local governments are suing, hoping to recover damages caused by the epidemic. (NPR, OH, December 20, 2018)

As the opioid epidemic continues, the holidays bring need to support those in grief – For all the warm memories and goodwill shared during the holiday season, for many it is a time of acute grief. The American opioid crisis is rightfully understood as the worst public health crisis in American history, killing over 70,000 people last year alone. Behind the statistics are the private, aching pains for loved ones lost. (Washington’s Top Post/Associated Press, Washington D.C., December 20, 2018)

Drug Treatment Courts

Drug court families find holiday joy in event – “We want to help as many children and families as we can, and this event is one way to help give the joy of the holidays to others,” said Cabell County Deputy Sheriff Terry McFann. A soon-to-be graduate, Fadre Smith, said, “As of tomorrow I will be graduated from drug court and the aftercare program too. We are all a big support system for each other in drug court, so this event is like having some Christmas fun with other members of your family. We get to share our success stories and what our plans are for the New Year.” (Herald Dispatch, WV, December 18, 2018)

Juvenile Justice

Some hope new youth prison is closer to ‘home’ when Lincoln Hills closes in 2021 – Where will Wisconsin’s young offenders go when Lincoln Hills, the state’s youth prison, closes in 2021? Members of the group “Youth Justice Milwaukee” said the new facility must be located closer to offenders’ families, and they’re also pushing county and state leaders to focus on better rehabilitation programs. “Bringing people home and closer is important,” said Senator Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee. (Fox 6 Now, WI, December 16, 2018)

Two New CDF-CA Reports Highlight Ways to Better Support Justice-Involved Youth – Children’s Defense Fund–California (CDF-CA) released two publications that explore the challenges and opportunities in the ways justice and education systems jointly support justice-involved youth in Los Angeles County. “‘Unhidden Figures: Examining the Characteristics of Justice-Involved Students in Los Angeles County,’” a fact sheet, sheds light on the array of identities and needs of students who are either being detained or on probation. These students, who often have the most needs, are less likely than other to access high quality education. (The Los Angeles Sentinel, CA, December 20, 2018)

Public Defense

Changes underway to improve indigent defense – The county of Hillsdale is undertaking needed changes to better provide indigent defense per guidelines issued by the state of Michigan. Burger said the county, under Michigan’s new guidance, had to become compliant by Jan. 1, 2019 which has led to changes in not only public defense, but the court system and the Hillsdale County Jail. The public defenders are also allotted funding for independent investigators to interview and investigate crimes on behalf of the defense. (The Hillsdale Daily News, MI, December 20, 2018)

How Lubbock became the model for indigent defense in Texas – Lubbock is on the cutting edge of indigent defense. “This can become a state model and there is an opportunity for this to be also a national model,” said Jim Bethke, head of the Lubbock Private Defender Office. It’s a system that is run through a nonprofit, the Lubbock Private Defender Office. (My San Antonio, TX, December 18, 2018)

Veterans Treatment Courts

Local drug treatment program is giving vets new life – One small gesture can impact a community’s most vulnerable population. Just ask those involved in the 41-B District Court’s Veterans Treatment Court. On Dec. 13, the treatment court team, with the aid of numerous vets, made fleece blankets and scarves, which will later be donated to Hope Not Handcuffs and Macomb County Friends of Foster Kids. “What they’ve gone through is so much more than anything anyone else has ever experienced. It’s cool to see that at this point, they’ve gone through so much and sacrificed so much for the country, and they’re here donating for something else.” (C & G Newspapers, MI, December 19, 2018)